30.4.09

Tandoori fights: Varun and Kasab

I don’t know who is worse. Seriously.

Both are losing their mental balance.

Varun Gandhi is upset:

"In our country, Varun Gandhi is jailed under the NSA and was having 'lauki' (bottle gourd) in Etah jail but Kasab is treated with 'tandoori chicken' inside the jail."


He added that he likes lauki and is a vegetarian. So, what is his problem? If he wanted something more elaborate, he should have stayed back longer. I am sure his mummy would make some demands.

Right now, since she is dead against dead animals, she has been tutoring her son about dying political parties. This is like a ghost talking about the living:

"I won't comment against Congress as it was breathing its last, my mother had told me that I should not say anything bad against people who are on their deathbed".

- - -

Ajmal Amir Kasab has asked the court for toothpaste, ittar (perfume), Urdu newspapers.

If he can get a private lawyer, then these should not be a problem. If he has dental problems then there will be undue delay; he already gets the news from his lawyer, so not much is hidden... most of it is anyway about him…as for the ittar, I think it might reveal more about the details of the attack depending on which fragrance he chooses.

He also wants to walk outside his barrack:

Humarein barrack ke samne vaale baramdein mein kuch der ghumne ko chhoda jaaye. Iske liye unko fikar karneki zaroorat nahin kyun ke woh baramdein chaaron taraf se bandh hai (allow me to stroll in the verandah opposite my barrack. Security personnel should not have a problem as the special cell is completely closed).”


This guy sure knows his way around, in more ways than one. His reason for this walk is that he would lose his mental balance if they did not permit him. Ah, now his lawyer can, if they are not allowed, plead insanity for his client.

- - -

Today, I overslept as the next phase of voting happened around me.

I looked at the papers. I was glad I had a dream, instead.

For the rest, this was thrust down their throats under the guise of ‘Awareness drive’:

Romance

I was told this music was used in the Korean noir film A Bitter Sweet Life…which life is, isn’t it?

So bitter that you are forced to eat some sugar; so sweet that you squeeze the juice of a flower hard that the last petal left is dry and bitter. It is still a life… Each of us is born to matter to someone, at the very least.

Romance - Yuhki Kuramoto

Indian elections, Issue Pakistan

Set the poll rolling:
Imagining the Taliban

by Farzana Versey

The News International, April 30, 2009


If you do not look at the candidates, the manifestoes and the daily dose of quotes, then you might begin to think that India is voting in the Pakistani elections. Sorry if this sounds insensitive, but the Taliban crisis is what has made the marketing guys tout these as the most important elections in India.

Of the times I have visited Islamabad, I had never heard of Buner. These days, Indian news channel anchors talk about Buner as though it were something in their exclusive backyards. Is this fear psychosis, the ragged remains of the Mumbai attacks which are raked up by every group with chiffon saree and pearls and cotton-silk kurtas and striped ties? These are women and men who are rolling the word 'Bun-air' blithely and lithely off their tongues.

Isn't that why if we cut through the swathe of national issues, then the real vote is against terrorism? The only terrorism we seem to recognise comes from across the border. The more serious media show us scruffy-looking men, heavily armed and bearded, crossing hills. Their destination, we are told, is India and they are supposedly the Taliban. When they realise this sounds ridiculous, they change it to jihadis. The subtle difference having raised the bar of their consciousness, they become eligible to be considered with more gravitas.

It is shocking to hear intelligent commentators hallucinate that if the Taliban were to reach Karachi, they could threaten us. We now even have a reason: some of the 26/11 terrorists did use the sea route. But are they interested in India? The Taliban, or at least Pashtun elements, have always been an important source of anxiety and anger among the Karachiites. They have business dealings there and this would be a part of their spreading the message and taking over Pakistan agenda, if it is that. India does not matter to them politically or even strategically.

I am, therefore, surprised that a retired colonel joined the bandwagon and sought to write an open letter to General Pervez Kayani stating: "Sir, it is imperative that we recognise our enemy without any delay. I use the word 'our' advisedly – for the Taliban threat is not far from India's borders. And the only force that can stop them from dragging Pakistan back into the Stone Age is the force that you command… the future of humankind in the subcontinent rests with you." This is utterly debasing not only to Pakistani civil society but also to the Indian electorate that is being brainwashed with such damaging information and homilies. Interestingly, the onus is being placed on the army, an army that was sought to be thrown out in democratic elections.

While the army in Pakistan has had running tenures for long periods of time, it is in fact often a puppet in the hands of the democrats. After all, it was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who asked Yahya to arrest Mujibur Rehman. He then took over as leader and promptly released Mujib and arrested Yahya! The only common fallout was that India has had to deal with Bangladeshi immigrants and Pakistan with the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet incursion.

Pakistan, and not merely the extreme north, has had to deal with bomb blasts; these were not engineered by the Taliban. There are regional and linguistic issues. How serious can a discourse be if it chooses to use an American newspaper's puff prophecy? The CIA had branded Pervez Musharraf as among the ten worst dictators. None of these certificates or crystal ball gazers bothers to provide even broad definitions of what they mean by 'dictator' and, more importantly, 'collapse'.

The economy has collapsed, starting with the west. Did they anticipate it? Elected governments collapse when they are voted out of power. There is a collapse when Israel puts a blockade around Gaza and denies its people basic facilities. Essential services collapse when there are strikes by trade unions – legitimate dissenters. How many more examples of collapse should be provided to explain in perspective that New York Times cannot be taken at face value?

Pakistan, the Taliban and jihad are catch-phrases that might work, especially during election time, but it is rather tragic that so soon after the Assam blasts and the Naxalites going on a killing spree, we have moved on to the Taliban. There is something called ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom) that has been in existence for years and they in fact are working on a separatist notion that there is some feeble stipulation for and the Naxal Maoist forces constitute the extreme wing of the left, a big party in the electoral process.

One is waiting for an open letter to our army chief regarding the 100 terrorists who have reportedly 'sneaked into Jammu and Kashmir' (one had no idea they would seek permission!). The only thing in our favour is that we are still a democracy with no constitutional provision for a theocracy. Maybe, the good colonel would like to convey that to those propagating dreams of a Hindu Rashtra.

29.4.09

Now, a fatwa to vote!

Can I vote for a drunkard? No, that's not my query. I'd be happy to recommend at least a nice after dinner liquer to erase the taste of kebabs from the palate.

This important question, among others regarding how to cast your vote that won't go against the Shariah, was apparently asked by some Muslims. I do not know how true it must be for one has never heard of such a thing before. But the Darul ul Uloom got its opportunity to issue one more fatwa.

This time it is to vote and for democracy. Which is such a dictatorial thing to do. Getting that ink dot is "as important as a testimony or a witness is in Islam", they said.

Then, the faithful are told that they cannot judge Indian democracy according to Quranic or Hadith principles.

Now, this is wonderful except that by issuing this edict and other past ones they are, and have been, going against their own sage advice.

It has got them brownie points and people will go, "Oh, this is the much-needed reform Muslim society needs." The Darul ul Uloom fellows will be seen as 'leaders'. One more joke.

Who knows this fatwa must have been prompted by some candidate who likes to wash down his rogan josh with Scotch?

I'd say lage raho miyan bhai, but please leave the ordinary Muslim alone to decide whether they want a drunkard, a womaniser or a Sufi high on hash.

Speaking tongues

The mere sound of a language I am not too familar with enamours me. Since human facial expressions do not vary much, although they may have different cultural meanings, it is the way words are used that make people stand apart from one another.

As one who dislikes uniformity, these differences make interactions dynamic. With a working knowledge of a few Indian languages, I do get by quite well. Foreign languages? Mostly some handy phrases that can get me into trouble if used out of context. I did learn a few cuss words in Farsi for a specifically noble purpose when I was young and did not fancy the idea of Iranian men giving the glad eye while running their fingers over prayer beads. Did I not tell you I hate multitasking?

School brought with it French. Except for fragrances and the French Revolution, we knew nothing about the country. Lingerie was pronounced as ling-a-ree. How on earth were we to know that the French employ their tongues deftly but rather sparingly? Therefore, while the deep deserves their reverence, words subsist on the tongue's whim to stay suspended in the mouth as the lips pucker or sneer to form sentences.

Among the Indian languages that gives nary a thought to phonetics or even vowels, Bangla would probably be right there ahead of the rest. The Bengali speaks as though with a mouthful of food that is swallowed rather than chewed.

Recently I received one of those notes that was addressed to "fellow Bongs"...after I had got over the surprise, I decided to write a verse on that mish-tick (mistake):

Aapne humein fellow Bong samjha, yeh tau ghalati hai
Unko poochhoge tau kahenge unnati hai
Shaayad yeh sirf meri aazmaish thi
Sach kahe tau Charulata* banne ki hamesha se khwaahish thi
Hum bhi moonh mein zabaan rakhte hai*
Magar Kali Devi jaisi hamari kahaan latakti hai
Ghaliban Ghalib tau humein halki si bhi gaali nahin denge
Jab Bangla bolne ki zidd mein tabah* ko tobah* keh denge

Tried transliterating it…

You called me a fellow Bong, that was an error
If you ask them, though, they’d say it makes me a winner
Perhaps this was to test me
For to be Charulata was always my dream
I too have a tongue in my mouth
But unlike Kali’s mine doesn’t stick out
Ghalib won’t curse me even in a whisper
As I transform the Urdu bang into a Bangla whimper

~FV

* That is a line from Ghalib

Charulata = the main protagonist in Satyajit Ray's eponymous film
tabah = destruction
tobah (ideally spelled as taubah, but deliberately not here) = repentance or used as an exclamation

This is a play on Bangla pronunciation which enunciates 'a' as 'o'.

A literal translation would have broken the rhythm.

But why all these explanations for a mere transgression?!

28.4.09

No comments

Why no comments? Because the news reports are self-explanatory. Because I am tired of repeating myself. Because how the hell can we trust the CBI and other organisations that keep changing their tune all the time? They are not like witnesses that alter their stand due to pressure or when they turn approvers or dissenters. Okay, this was a sort of comment.

Tytler case (1984-2009)

CBI director Ashwani Kumar overruled the opinion of senior officers on the issue of a clean chit to Congress leader Jagdish Tytler in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, sources said.

The joint director and a DIG of the agency recommended that there was a strong case of murder, rioting and damage to property against the leader in the Bara Hindu Rao riots where a number of Sikhs were killed by a mob allegedly incited by Tytler.


Modi case (2002-2009)



One headline read, “Probe Modi’s role in Gujarat carnage”.

I am tired of reading these headlines sporadically for the past seven years.

The current move is in response to Jakia Nasim Ahsan Hussain Jafri’s affidavit. She is the widow of ex-Congress MP Ahsan Jafri, who was killed by a mob at Gulbarg Society. Her charges are:

“The constitutionally elected head of the state (is) responsible for fundamental rights, right to life and property of all citizens regardless of caste, community and gender. Alleged to be the architect of a criminal conspiracy to subvert constitutional governance and the rule of law; unleash unlawful and illegal practices during the mass carnage and thereafter protecting the accused who played a direct as well as indirect role and abetted commission of the crime.”


I am sorry to say nothing will happen. Modi will win by a huge margin.



Picture imperfect, in more ways than one:



L.K.Advaniji, it should be sar pe topi haath mein resham ka rumaal, but the Gandhinagar messiah won’t wear a Gandhi topi and the rumaal would be too mulayam for his taste, so it goes to his head. Or is it a metaphor for ‘logoun ko topi pehna liya’?

27.4.09

A halal toast to the Haji

The afternoon sun wasn't terribly unpleasant. Maybe because I was stepping out after days. Maybe because I could feel the sea breeze.

When we took a turn, the road was half dug up on one side and there was a traffic jam. Some aspiring candidate was campaigning and everything had come to a standstill. There were sleek cars, police jeeps and SUVs. How can anyone think of SUVs in a city like Mumbai?

The candidate is a Haji something or the other. I craned my neck and I saw the gentleman directing traffic. This was supposed to mean that he was like a grassroots man. I put on a suitably impressed smile for man in blue shades behind the wheel of the monster vehicle inching near me.

Craning my neck some more, I wished I were a nubile chick doing the cheerleader pom-pom - the halal version, of course. I saw Haji saab moving his hands frantically. Then a head peered out of a Toyota. Ah, THIS was Haji something or the other. After doing a headcount, I realised they all looked pretty much the same.

The cars were bumper-to-bumper. The photograph of their national leader was towering over all the demonic cars. I couldn't figure out why anyone would campaign at that hour near a seaside promenade.

Even if Haji saab wanted to convey that he had nothing against couples canoodling on the rocks or the low wall, the curve of their butts visible when they bent slightly in their low-slung jeans, it made no sense because except for one fellow frying pakoras on a cane stand and a bhelwalla the road was pretty deserted.

I guess he achieved his target by stopping the traffic. It also meant there were more of his people than the real electorate.

Anyway, I resisted the urge to take a picture and decided that I shall toast Haji saab with a creme brule.

---

I believe the favourite campaign food of politicians is biryani and there are protests when batata vadas are served, which North indians refer to as aloo tikkis, which makes me angry because the batata vada is just so BV.

This reminds me. Why do these nice places one goes to occasionally not understand that if you are likely to eat something and the tables are low, the least they can do is make the crockery less heavy and humongous? It takes special talent to manage to use cutlery and see that the stuff makes its way safely from table to mouth.

Also, when one orders a fancy sandwich stuffed with onion marmalade, among other things, you expect a sandwich. I got two tiny pieces - 1"x3" each - with some artistic brown squiggle that was the sauce. Then, to make the thing look even better, they had another rectangle of watermelon with a mint leaf on top and half a fig, which looked like, well...whatever.

The creme brule was an afterthought.

You cannot toast a good Haji with a half fig that looks like well...whatever.

Jaanbaaz

I did not like Feroz Khan. Each time I saw him at some award function, I’d get irritated. His so-called showmanship put me off completely; his apparent style just did not flow effortlessly.

He is dead now. He chose to die close to the animals he loved even if it meant taking a risk and travelling.

This I liked about him. Taking risks.

There was a time when he did qualify as both showman and stylish in the real sense. If he had to blow up a car in his own venture, he got the best new brand and blew it up.

There was an element of Elvis Presley and Clint Eastwood in him, without not quite being either.

One could never imagine him as poor…he had to live in large houses, wear the best suits and turtle neck sweaters (it seemed to be invariably cold where he was located!), drive long cars through winding and reckless turns, he had to have his hair in place and he had to be the winner; even if he lost it was with a gesture of magnanimity as though he were doing the hero a favour.

He was quite a terrible actor, only a bit better than the deadpan Jeetendra or the “naaaiii” exclaiming Shashi Kapoor which made the nahin (no) sound more like an urgent appeal to the barber (nai is barber is Hindi). Feroz Khan had the advantage of a fairly flawless dialogue delivery.

The only film I liked him in was Safar. The woman is in love with someone else, but of course he gets her…the words are not in keeping with his persona at all:

Jo tumko ho pasand wohi baat karenge Tum din ko agar raat kaho raat kahenge

(I shall do whatever you wish
If you call the day night, then so be it)

Unlikely. But then, he could be a smooth talker…as long as he was in the driver’s seat.

And he was till the end. When he insisted on meeting his thoroughbreds before he left. It was a great gamble…or perhaps another journey (safar):

Jo Tumko Ho Pasand



# Movie: Safar
# Singer: Mukesh
# Music Director: Kalyanji-Anandji
# Lyricist: Indeevar
# Actors/Actresses: Feroz Khan, Rajesh Khanna, Sharmila Tagore

26.4.09

Sunday ka Funda

This was voted the best commercial in Europe. Watch it and smile :) Need I say more?

Jest like that...

Each Friday night after work, Bubbal Singh would fire up his outdoor grill and cook a tandoori chicken and some meat kebabs. But, all of Bubbal's neighbours were strict Catholics ... and since it was Lent, they were forbidden from eating chicken and meat on a Friday.

The delicious aroma from the grilled meats was causing such a problem for the Catholic faithful that they finally talked to their Priest. The Priest came to visit Bubbal, and suggested that he become a Catholic. After several classes and much study, Bubbal attended Mass ... and a the priest sprinkled holy water over him and said, "You were born a Sikh, and raised a Sikh, but now, you are a Catholic.”

Bubbal's neighbors were greatly relieved, until Friday night arrived, and the wonderful aroma of tandoori chicken and meat kebabs filled the neighbourhood. The Priest was called immediately by the neighbors, and, as he rushed into Bubbal's backyard, clutching a rosary and prepared to scold him, he stopped and watched in amazement.

There stood Bubbal clutching a small bottle of holy water which he carefully sprinkled over the grilling meats and chanted: "Oye, you waz born a chicken, and you waz born a lamb, you waz raised a chicken, and you waz raised a lamb, but now yaara you iz a fish!"

- - -

(Obviously, this is a forward I received...)

25.4.09

Ask the vexpert - 16

Question: I am a 30-year-old man. I ride a bike, covering approximately 30 km per day. Will this affect my sex life?

Sexpert: No, it will not affect your sex life. However, there are reports that the sperm count can reduce. Check your sperm count with a reliable pathologist.

Me: Of course, it will if you tell your partner about it. I mean, 30 kms a day astride a throbbing machine could make her expectations rise. Also, you might start behaving weirdly, imagining bumps, trying to overtake (if you follow rules then only from the left), stopping with a jerk and then trying to restart with a pedal push.

Will it affect your sperm count? Depends on how the sperms ride. If they are cautious, then fine. If they are reckless, then of course there will be fatal accidents.

- - -

Question: I am 27 years old. I have the following questions. 1) Why is Viagra taken? 2) What is the best age for men to father a child? 3) What is the right age to start a family?

Sexpert: 1)Viagra is for better erection (when a man suffers from erectile dysfunction). 2) A man can father a child the day he starts passing sperms and the woman starts experiencing menstruation. However, parenting involves much more — a stable home, income, the right facilities to bring up a child, etc. 3) Around 27 through the 30s would be a good age to start a family.

Me: 1. Viagra is taken when your partner expresses a desire for a blue diamond. That’s what the pill is shaped like.

2. The best age for a man to father a child is when he grows up, which is like never. But for the sake of perpetuating the race, when he can slip off his condom after having learned to slip it on.

3. What is the right age to start a family? So strange. Should one assume that the child you will father will not be your legal partner’s? Or are you looking for a brood to complete the family? Just follow the steps mentioned, except that you should take breaks and slip on the prophylactic occasionally lest you lose practice. You will need it when you are done with Family Inc.

Trick or treat?

Old BJP dirty tricks at work again.

Arun Shourie suggested that it could be Modi’s turn to be projected as BJP’s prime ministerial nominee after L K Advani as he said, “You have an opportunity to elect the PM not only this time but in the next polls also.”


What is this – some sale where you are offering warrantee?

And this goes against what L.K.Advani has been ranting about:

Advani said if more and more aspirants from the ranks of UPA are staking claims to prime ministership today, it is only because the PM’s post stands “devalued”.

If they are talking about GenNext saffron leaders, then they have no business to talk against Rahul Gandhi and company. Yes, that is dynasty. But people also inherit ideologies and the vile ways of their seniors. That too is a legacy.

- - -

I watched the Priyanka Gandhi interview and have to admit I was charmed by her philosophical take on herself, her ‘forgiveness’ of Nalini, her father’s killer, her little insights into the family.

I was a bit upset that the interviewer, Barkha Dutt, asked her how she was so proficient in Hindi. What does this mean? You can ask this to Sonia Gandhi. Why should Priyanka not be fluent in Hindi? Her grandfather was from Allahabad and UP has been the family’s stomping ground; she was raised in Delhi and Hindi is the second language even in what we call English-medium schools. Huh, what was that query about and why?

Priyanka also said with absolute certainty that she will not join ministerial politics (she did not deny being political because that was what she has been surrounded by).

However, I could not help but notice that she kept plugging her brother Rahul bigtime. He is more outgoing, he is the visionary, he does not suffer fools, he knows exactly what he wants…and so on...

Now if only he knew what the junta wants and did not tell us how proud he is of the poor and other silly things, we might believe her.

- - -

Who are they trying to fool? And if they are not fooling then we truly live in some horrible times. A gangster can call up a politician and ask him to tell the general secretary of his party not to campaign?

This is what Amar Singh of the Samajwadi Party said:

“Chhota Rajan spoke to me politely and requested that Sanjay (who is also an SP general secretary) should not campaign for Azmi. He also claimed that he was a friend of Gurudas Kamat, the Congress nominee in Mumbai North-West.’’


If the call was from an unknown number and the fellow gave him a different name, how does he know it is the gangster? And for someone who has been in a few telephone scams, why did he not record the conversation?

Then he goes on this moping binge:

“When Sanjay and I landed in Mumbai on Thursday night, we found no securitymen around even though I am entitled to Z-plus cover. I immediately contacted chief minister Ashok Chavan who asked me to make an application in writing. Since I did not want Sanjay to be felled by the underworld I advised him not to campaign for Azmi.’’


This is not even funny. Sanjay has to report for shootings? Sanjay does not want to hurt his sister? Sanjay’s background is indeed getting in the way of certain vote banks? Out with it…

24.4.09

The way we are - 2

I had been saying for months that the BJP would come to power; I had not anticipated this Third and Fourth front business. Now, it looks like the tide can turn anyway. And we can even have Mayawati as PM.

Will her colleagues let her get away with it? Unlikely.

- - -

I don’t like the BJP or any political party with a religious mindset. However, the only thing that can be said is that L. K. Advani is at least going out and fighting the elections.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is not. He and his wife went to vote in Assam, which is his ‘get into power’ home. Here they are awaiting their turn. MS looks like a waxwork at the local version of Madame Tussaud’s:


- - -


Clinging to power seems such an attractive proposition that even a one-time socialist like George Fernandes, denied a ticket by his own party, has gone ahead to contest as an independent from Muzaffarpur. His agenda:

“Please support me. Give me your vote and support for the last time as I am old and near my end. I want to breathe my last as your representative.”


We might brand this emotional blackmail, which it is. But, I feel sorry for the downfall of one who had a most interesting career, whatever be the merits of some of his actions and stands.

- - -

These two are voters from the IT capital of India – Bangalore. To such ridiculous lengths we will go to show that we are a multi-hued society that we bring in these figures. It looks stage-managed to me:

23.4.09

The way we are

That we hang our tongues out over anything foreign is known, but I thought at least certain sections had become more sophisticated about it.

No.

Today’s Times of India carried this picture of Spanish Crown Prince Felipe, along with Princess Letizia, welcoming President Pratibha Patil at the palace in Madrid on Tuesday:



Where is our self-respect that we show the President’s back while giving a full view of some monarchy in Spain?

- - -

As though the Americans going overboard about it, and the rest of the West joining in, is not enough, the other night on NDTV after a serious discussion on the elections, the anchor mentioned Barack Obama and his new dog Bo. There was a huge smile followed by pictures of our netas with their kuttas.

Here, too, we need to be inspired by the White House. Worse, the panel was made to sit patiently and watch this; Sudheendra Kulkarini even mentioned that they had missed out on showing Mr. Vajpayee and his dog!

- - -

Just for fun and a contrast, here is Ijaz Ahmed, health minister, Pakistan, at his feudal best:

Divisions

I read somewhere that people in Priya Dutt’s constituency were spreading the rumour that her husband was a Jew; he is a Catholic. The reason attributed to the rumour was to rile the Muslims who apparently start frothing at the mouth when Jews are mentioned.

This is such a silly conjecture. Muslims in India have hardly ever reacted to the Jew and Zionism as Muslims in many other parts of the world. True, there have been support rallies for Palestine, but that just does not translate into being anti-Jew. I don’t understand how people can sit on some perch and start chirping like little old gossips.

- - -

We may be getting tired of Varun Gandhi but the fellow has managed to get a ticket from Pilibhit and is also campaigning for other candidates. At one rally, he rather audaciously declared:

“Now you people have to reply to my mothers’s tears.”


There are the tears of several mothers that need answers. Did he ash his goons to stop going on a rampage? Did he send out an appeal for peace? Now he talks about ahimsa (non-violence)and the disgusting thing is people might buy it because people buy such rubbish. We have very short memories. Instead of addressing core issues (naturally), he said:

“Main aapke bachchon ke samman ke liye jail gaya thha (I went to jail for the sake of your children’s honour).”


The honour of these children could be restored with literacy (which is among the bottom of the heap even in Uttar Pradesh) and alleviation of poverty (over 45 per cent under the poverty line). What honour can they boast of now? That he spoke about some limited idea of patriotism? That he got aggressive about a certain community?

22.4.09

Art, politics and mockery

Is political satire in art a mockery of art? We don’t seem to have much contemporary art that can boast of such ability, at least in our part of the world. The closest we come to it is cartoons.

I have already written about the painting at the Shanakht festival that got into trouble:

The controversial painting at the Shanakht festival

There have been questions raised as to whether it is art or even satire. Both are difficult to define and cannot be seen objectively.

There can be very dark commentary, as Iranian artist Ardeshir Mohassess portrays:

Ardeshir Mohassess' 'Against the wall'

Quite a bit of Salvador Dali’s works would qualify as parody.

It is even possible to go way back into the 16th century. Artist Jacob Jordaens’ The Satyr by the Farmer is perhaps a telling commentary where the satyr is the cowering figure, while the farmers are in what may be described as a 'peasantly' expressive orgy. I am completely fascinated by how almost everyone is using their hands:



Political parody need not be obvious, but if it is then it can be analysed by those standards.

This brings us to the Shanakht painting. Almost everyone has spoken about it being objectionable because of the image of Benazir.

This is part of what I wrote in the earlier post:

It does not look like a tasteful idea but then reams have been written about how Pakistani democracy invariably plays along with the army. This happens to be historical reality. Besides, is art merely supposed to be tasteful and not comment wryly, or even with a whiplash, at prevalent norms and mishaps?

…If, say, Benazir is shown as Mother Teresa, would the moral-keepers of Pakistani society object to her non-Muslimness, her Indian connection or her canonisation, which is against Islam?


With the image now available to me, I would like to use the perceptive comment posted by mstaab (in italics here) to deconstruct it:

I haven't seen the work depicting Ms. Bhutto perched on Gen Zia's lap either; but one can well imagine. As a part of our paternity here in the west, we have such expressions as, "in the lap of luxury," which is suggestive of especial privilege. Another such expression plays off a fairly common domestic image of a child nestled comfortably on the lap of a parent or caregiver while being regaled with a story. We say "X learned it at Y's knee," which conveys the transference of cultural wisdom from an elder to a youngster. The image of Santa Claus in countless shopping malls across the US, hordes of children lined up to take their turn on his lap to make their particular request(s) for consumer goods, is still thought to illustrate the winsome innocence of children and their pressing desires.

The lap of luxury concept is rather obvious here where Benazir is dressed in finery. She is a grown woman and therefore an element of wiliness can be conjectured upon. Even coquettishness. She is also head and shoulders above Zia, which means that she knows her place. Is it the wisdom from an elder?

Zia got her father killed. So, if the artist was timing it ‘pre’ that period then the above may work. If it is ‘post’, then perhaps she was playing along or became a happy victim to get some gains and then topple him. Which she did.

Interestingly, the Islamist Zia is quite comfortable with her un-Islamic dress and posture and both are holding each other.

This would connote the rich kid who still yearns for Santa Claus goodies because of its…

Fairytale value
To belong
To cater to greed
To follow parental indoctrination

It must also be noted that she is the only one whose skin colour is close to real and not the pantomime mask of the rest, except the figure on the far right top.

Maybe her history is still fresh and therefore not concretised.

Certainly it makes sense that the personalities involved (Ms. Bhutto and Gen Zia, in this instance) might cue the viewer as to how this arrangement is to be interpreted. After all, there are countless paintings of "Madonna and Child" that depict a naked baby Jesus holding forth from the lap of a fully clothed Virgin Mother; but I have yet to hear of any interpretation of these works that suggests the naked (perhaps even "vulnerable") Christ-child as being, say, a ventriloquist's dummy…



Besides the point about vulnerability, there is the innocence factor too. The transposed innocence of the Virgin Mother’s with the child’s. Also the comfort level with nudity seeks to confirm the purity. And immaculateness.

However, this particular image shows a stern mother and a certain distancing. The child looks mature and is apparently already his own person:

13th century Madonna and child in the Italo-Byzantine style

The ventriloquist’s dummy brings me back to the Shanakht painting. Ayub Khan is carrying a baby Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Military dictatorship was a new phenomenon, and there is benign distance in the armyman’s demeanour, whereas an impetuous child Bhutto is holding him, while in deep thought looking ahead. This is again a part of recorded history. The petulant child found a new Santa, who is interestingly in the foreground.

Yahya Khan is shown as almost a ridiculous dwarf physically, but his face is in repose. Probably in the classical ‘sitting for a portrait’ mould. From all accounts, the gentleman behind him is Mujib-ur-Rehman. I am sticking my neck out with this, but if it is so it is sought to be shown that there was a tacit understanding between them that later failed. He is wearing almost priest-like robes, a fact that harks to his later beatification as the creator of Bangladesh and martyr for its cause.

Certainly many western (and eastern) businessmen have some familiarity with the "lap dance." And, likewise, there yet remains in the consciousness of some the not-altogether-bygone imagery of a secretary (generally female) with notepad in hand athwart the manager's lap (generally male), "taking dictation" (it may be helpful for folks from Mumbai to exchange the secretary for starlet and the manager for film director, with the activity being "learning his/her lines," lol).


The imagery of the lap dancer also means deceit; the belief that what you are paying for is really catering to you. The dancers’ motives are clear; the obfuscation of the clients’ understanding makes it poignant.

“Taking dictation” and lines being scripted are a part of any political tamasha.

Tasteless art is probably trying to reflect that very tastelessness.

21.4.09

Everybody loves a good Muslim

You switch channels, you turn newspaper pages, and there is the M word staring at you. To be honest, at this time of the year Muslims seem like termites coming out of the woodwork.

There is the Muslim symbol, the Muslim story of patriotism, the Muslim who lived to tell the story (ouch), the Muslim on the couch, in the closet...oh, unlimited variety.

Just when I was going to yawn, I discovered that the Battle for the Mussalman has taken on a serious tone. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that poor Muslims have priority over the country's resources. The saffron spoilers have complained to the Election Commission that such statements go against its model code of conduct.

I don't know what the PM meant. Poor Muslims could mean "oh those poor bechara Muslims" and then we could have iftaar parties all year round. What does priority mean? Do people wait in some queue for the nation's resources, and Muslims will be allowed to break the line? And what are these resources? Power, water, fuel? How do you make sure poor Muslims get more of these and first?

Very confusing.

Mulayam Singh is doing his bit. First he has to make Kalyan Singh, former BJP guy of Babri fame, look like a nice guy who has turned over a new leaf. Then he makes Sanjay Dutt do some dialogue baazi where the actor says he was arrested under TADA and tortured because his mother was a Muslim. Fool. Many people have been arrested for being Muslim, so what's the big deal?

Mayawati thinks all Muslims are like Dalits so she has no choice but to make them her major electoral lust factor.

Laloo Prasad Yadav thinks they are like the cattle in his tabela who he personally gives chaara to.

The Left does not have to try too hard because it is assumed that they are pro Muslim because they are anti Hindutva.

Even the saffron waalas want to be nice to the Muslims. Their strategy is simple: we have nothing against the good Muslims.

Good Muslims are people they don't get to see or hear. Or who sing Vande Mataram and say Jai Ho. And who cannot see Pakistan on the world map. Essentially, good Muslims according to them are intelligent idiots.

Now, like folks from other communities, there will be Muslims who wear their salwaar or pyjamas upto a certain length that reaches their ankles, they may grow their beard a particular length (yup, big on length, I guess), they may wear burqas or hijaab, they may dab 'Jannat e Firdous' ittar behind their ears, they may remember their god five times a day after being reminded on a loudspeaker, they may do the annual slaughter, they may beat their Shia breasts during Muharram, they may display some calligraphic plaque in their homes, they may wear parrot green and candyfloss pink clothes. So what?

Not many will ever demand priority over the nation's resources. So just chill. Yeah, the Rooh Afza. That too.

Everybody loves a good Muslim?

Yawn.

20.4.09

Adnan Sami, Benazir and the PPP

Why is a couple's domestic problem so important that not only does it become news but also a diplomatic issue between two countries?

Aside from the fact that Adnan Sami's marriage has made the headlines, it is distressing to note that he has contacted the Pakistani president and prime minister after reportedly getting death threats. He says it is to ensure that the wrong people are not accused. What the hell does he mean? Should there be a serious attempt on his life, on what grounds can the government of his country of origin point fingers and demand an explanation?

We create doubts about the intentions of our own people from certain communities.

So why keep quiet as the Adnan tamasha gets into top gear with even an element of violence?

I don't know and don't care about the inside story of the Sami affair but it is disgusting for Pooja Bedi to make the report available to the media where she gives a graphic description of what his wife did to ironically mimic Pooja's sense of dressing. What is she trying to prove?

Where in all this vulgar recounting of details do the Pakistani leaders come in?

---

Talking about Pakistani leaders, specifically the PPP, they had sent their members early this month to disrupt the Shanakht art festival. They objected to one particular painting of Benazir Bhutto on the lap of General Zia.

I have not seen any images of it and it is obvious the artist was making a political point. It does not look like a tasteful idea but then reams have been written about how Pakistani democracy invariably plays along with the army. This happens to be historical reality. Besides, is art merely supposed to be tasteful and not comment wryly, or even with a whiplash, at prevalent norms and mishaps?

Did the PPP have to go on a rampage at the venue where other art was displayed and theatre to be performed?

Pakistan does have some amazing artists and they are quite open about even painting nudity. I have seen such exhibitions so I know. Would the artists dispassionately say that the BB painting was vulgar? Then, does a rampage not qualify as vulgar too? If, say, Benazir is shown as Mother Teresa, would the moral-keepers of Pakistani society object to her non-Muslimness, her Indian connection or her canonisation, which is against Islam?

I am curious.

Just wondering

A gang rape case in Mumbai.

The victim: an American student who along with her family belonged to the Hare Krishna cult.

The rapists: Educated, well-to-do collegians.

Question: Why did the girl in her report give a description of what appears like foreplay? It is very disturbing.

---

Can someone tell me why in the ad asking people to vote Aamir Khan is made to mouth the words "Desh ke sabse ehem aur mahatwapoorna chunaav" (the nation's most important and decisive elections)? What makes these polls different? That companies and newspapers are event managing the way people vote? That there is money being ploughed in and they want the returns?

What?

19.4.09

Another blood

Someone tiptoed into my room
I could feel fingers run through my hair
A dry kiss on my eyelid
A hand circling my neck

Who is it? I stuttered

Your past

In the dark
I sensed how hardened it had become
Like a rock in an ocean

It had come to watch
As I lay there
On a white sheet
With drips feeding me
The voyeur lifted my gown
Touched my thighs, stomach, breasts
I was on test

Some parts hurt
The ones with waterproofing
Were immune to even tears
The past had not come to weep
It told me about what I was
And what I would be

Look at your eyes, it said

There are no mirrors here

Look at your eyes in mine

You are stone

Because of you

What is wrong with my eyes?

They are bright

Isn't that good?

You will melt in your own light

Pain will melt too

Only if you will let it through
You ached and pined for it
Now you are here

I have no fear
Go away

I will only stay
Until the blood has entered you completely

Nothing does
Some drops will remain
For memories to stray

Iced tea was brought on a tray
It had been like that for days
Swallowing liquids that had no taste
And left no trace

On the third night
They gave a toast with a sliver of butter
It looked like beads of sweat on rough baked flesh
I took a bite ferociously
An animal tearing into its prey
Crumbs stuck to my chin

The past brushed them away
As though they were sin

Today I bled a little
My own blood covered the scars
Stars
On sky skin

I will not congeal

~FV

Sunday ka Funda

"Indecency, vulgarity, obscenity are strictly confined to man; he invented them. Among the higher animals there is no trace of them" - Mark Twain

Was it impulse, electoral compulsions or just playfulness that made Sanjay Dutt offer to give Mayawati a jaadu ki jhappi and pappi (magic hug and kiss)?

Whatever the reason, it is silly to file a FIR against him on charges of obscenity.

Our politicians want all the human trappings but the moment they are faced with human foibles it becomes a big issue.

Horse trading is obscene but our netas will be at it very soon. No FIRs; it will be termed 'coming together of like-minded people'. The orgy of power politics.

17.4.09

Questions for Kasab's new lawyer

Almost as soon as he took over as Ajmal Kasab's lawyer, Abbas Kazmi said he wasn't sure if his client was a Pakistani. As a defence attorney, this could have been a great strategy and the Indian Constitution does provide for a fair trial.

Now, here are some queries that Mr. Kazmi will face (besides, of course, the one of him being a Pakistani soul in Indian body!):

* The Pakistani government has accepted Kasab, so how does he disprove that?

* The Pakistani media has tracked his house and family - does he disown them?

* Kasab himself has mentioned his village and country, can he retract that?

* Even if he says he was pressurised to make a false confession, the question remains as to why he asked for a Pakistani lawyer then.

* By giving out his main line of argument, is the lawyer trying to disassociate with Pakistan because of the baggage involved for an Indian Muslim?

* Has he given some thought to the fact that despite having represented the accused in the 1993 blasts case, he was chosen over a few others?

* Given his declaration about doubts regarding his client's nationality, does he realise that options for evidence would be limited? What happens to the counter-queries the Pakistani government has sent us after receiving the dossier?

---

Now we come to some crucial points.

This reportage of Kasab's trial has already become a joke. What he wore, what he ate, how he smiled, who he looked at...this isn't a soap opera. We had enough of that following the attack.

Terrorism is being made into an election issue and will be misused. Last night a young BJP member said that people were asking her about Afzal Guru. Oh dear. The youth have other problems and am glad for once Jayanti Natarajan of the Congress responded that the cases against Rajiv Gandhi's killers are still pending. Every political party is going to use what it can.

The Left is happily posing with Vaiko who has made anti-national statements.

The Naxalites went on a killing spree and all we hear about is the voter turnout.

Please note that we get all bothered only when one country is mentioned: Pakistan.

Therefore, the Kasab trial should be put on hold until the elections are over. He is behind bars and in our custody.

Time to take care of our Maoists and their demands. The Indian state has to deal with the Indian state first.

16.4.09

Of think tanks and fish bowls

Maverick: Give me a think tank, I want to think

By Farzana Versey

Covert April 16-30


For as long as I can recall, I have wanted to be a thinker. There was also the added advantage that in my naïveté I believed if you were a thinker you did not have to do much.


Now I realise that only thinkers are doers; the rest are takers. We are being spoon-fed.


There are a few ways in which you may qualify as a thinker.


You could belong to a think tank. I looked up the origins and all of them are deathly serious about it. For me, it shall remain one of these fish-tank like show pieces where you see goldfish puckering their mouths to kiss some bubble or swallow a worm. The idea being that you belong to an enclosed space with people like you where you get noticed just for being there.


The second option is to be an expert. No, you don’t become an expert; you’ve got to be born one. It is quite easy – it is in the demeanour. You may know nothing about the subject but nature has somehow endowed you with an eye for one particular aspect of social discourse. You are the chosen one and no television channel can ignore you. Therefore, it is likely that you are an expert on military affairs though you have never held a gun or an Indologist even if you have never lived in India. In fact, these embellish you with an adjective: the objective expert.


You are a commentator. All of us plebeians comment and some of us have the misfortune of having to struggle into the tight jeans space editors allot to lesser mortals. But if you are a real commentator, then you can shoot your mouth off. Unlike the expert, you are not pigeonholed. You have a free run and can hold forth on many subjects, not because you know much about most of those but because you are capable of commenting. As a CoC type you quite naturally fit into the league of angels; you can flutter about and will be termed eclectic.


Readers of this magazine will be sorely disappointed to know that this columnist belongs to none of these categories. To save face, I spent a week keeping a hawk’s eye vigil on the august gentlemen and women.


Some simple discoveries I made:


Anchors of news shows address their guests by their first names. This has a deep psychological impact on the viewer. It means that we are an egalitarian society and anchors are important people who could belong to a think tank, be experts or commentators themselves. They will also argue by casting surreptitious glances at their laptop monitors. They will quote from one SMS message received by viewers and palm off the rest as their original probing queries.


The guests usually fall into two categories – those who wear suits or western attire and those who wear ethnic clothes. The former are usually on panels that discuss advertising, foreign affairs, the armed forces, alternate sexuality. The latter discuss gender disparity, ragging, rape, murders.


Where elections, politics, polls are concerned these emperors and empresses swap clothes quite comfortably.


The style is either ponderous or shrill depending on what point is sought to be made. If you are from a think tank you might be shrill because this is your moment under the arc lights, whereas an expert could decide to go into deep thought to convey a charming humility.


The accents vary from the clipped Jaswant Singh has just taken a bite of parfait to Mayawati ate all the malai. The blanket group of fundamentalists talk straight from the heart – all pumping arteries and bursting veins.


Activists speak like they have just discovered the world is flat and they have walked the whole distance.


In fact, television has brought the humble village Panchayati Raj right into our homes. The sarpanch, the anchor, starts conducting the proceedings on an important issue of national or international importance. The rest of the jury comprising the panellists then decide the fate of that issue.


If it is of human interest involving a person, then be certain that the poor subject will not be given the choice to have her/his say. The verdict is pronounced after the mandatory, “We are running out of time”.

15.4.09

This is about Gujarat. Not Teesta

It appears to be just the sort of impetus the Sangh Parivar is looking for.

The Special Investigative Team in Gujarat has submitted a report to the Supreme Court accusing NGOs, and specifically Teesta Setalvad, of "cooking up" (interesting terminology this) stories regarding incidents during the 2002 riots in the state.

There are many who are ready to jump the gun with their one-line verdict of "those bloody NGOs and Teestas and Arundhatis". You know what? All of you who are getting into this mode are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Why? Because it makes you uncomfortable to face the truth and listen to the wails. Because it suits your original POV that it couldn't have been so bad with your poster boy taking Gujarat to Nano-moto heights. This is your fake utopia and that's how you like it.

Now come out of the comfort zone. Forget the NGOs and their "spicing up" for a while. Let's talk facts and ask a few questions:

* Have you wondered about the timing of the release of the SIT report? Why was it not produced earlier?

* If false charges, it is now claimed, were levelled against police chief P.C.Pandey, then why was he together with seven senior officers transferred by the Election Commission's fact-finding group on October 15, 2007?

* If these are false charges, then what about the 78 Muslims who were arrested after the Godhra train burning? What about the Rs 1 crore that was immediately handed over to 25 victims' families?

* Why did the government use the pictures of the burning train to get mileage when the findings tell a different story? What about these falsifications?

To get back to the NGOs, it would be stupid to outright deny that they are capable of exaggeration. However, isn't it puerile to accuse the affidavits of being "stereotypical"? What did the SIT expect - variety in each episode? Isn't one burnt house, a broken limb, a dead person much like any other?

I have said often enough that victims can be used by politicians and anyone with an agenda. Local groups tend to get smothered by outside "well wishers". No one bothers to check on who funds them and why. Everyone is too busy looking for heroes and villains, one or two faces, they can put up as representatives and voices and send on junkets.

Dissent and the citizens' movement have become a farce precisely because of this shameless promotion of selective ideals and morals.

No one gives a damn about the real victims. If you do, then don't curse individuals. Ask yourself whether you had asked these questions when they needed to be asked. It might have been a voice in the wilderness but some of us have ears for it.

---

I cannot provide links due to reasons mentioned in the post below, but there is a detailed piece of mine here dated 30-10-2007.

9.4.09

Election sidelights: Milind Deora's two daddies, Rahul Gandhi's poor babies, and some more...

But you love me daddies…

Milind Deora, pulling strings?

Milind Deora may be a badey baap ka beta, but he does not have only one dad’s support. Murli Deora who virtually ruled the roost as BRCC head and was stuck to the seat with adhesive as facilitator and lobbyist has definitely played a role in his son’s rise. Now we have don Arun Gawli openly supporting him.

Arun Gawli, daddy cool

This man is in jail for murder under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). His daughter, Geeta Gawli, a municipal corporator, said:

“Although there was huge public demand for him to contest, he has decided to opt out in favour of Deora. The ABS will now support the Congress in Mumbai South.”


Almost in an Adi Godrej-like language, she calls him a “secular and dynamic youth leader”! If Dagdi Chawl’s ‘Daddy’ could contest, he would not be considered secular or a youth.

However, what surprises me (why do I still manage to get surprised?) is that Milind Deora has not issued a statement strongly disassociating himself with this gangster. I can understand if some regular roughneck was a candidate and one of the ganglords supported him. Remember Dawood Ibrahim’s brother’s ambitions? Or how Varadarajan blessed a lot of candidates?

What will all those SoBo (that is South Bombayites – nah, they won’t call it Mumbai) club types think? It is not like diamond merchant Bharat Shah, also a jail regular, giving him the thumbs up. What makes Milind not tell the Gawlis to shut up and stay away from messing around with his name? Or, is no one bothered anymore? These are the same people who are going to vote against the “sab chalta hai” attitude. What is this if not chalta hai?

Karan Johar has written a long article in today’s TOI telling the readers about what all Milind has managed to do. No one needs paid advertisements anymore? Or is it all about ‘kind’ now? After all, this paper charges you to get featured in some of its privileged sections.

Here are some of Karan’s bon mots:

“So what if he is the son of a cabinet minister? I am the son of a producer, does that make any of my films any less relevant? In our country, a lot of newsprint is focused on dynasties — film, political or otherwise — but what most forget is that ultimately, being born with a silver spoon doesn’t guarantee a platinum-lined future.”


He clearly cannot tell the difference between reality and make-believe. The country is not a film and the fate of millions is not the same as a show at multiplexes. The point is not about being born with a silver spoon; there have been cases of individuals from notable families who have contributed substantially. But his words are a dead give-away when he talks about a “platinum-lined future”. It only means that it is about individual aspirations.

And the concerns these people have are clear when he writes:

“On 26/11, my city changed. Irrevocably. As we all watched glued to our television sets for the next 72 hours, it seemed almost surreal that our beloved home was burning — a city that had always held the promise of fulfilling dreams was suddenly everyone’s worst nightmare.”


Your beloved home has burned several times, but many kilometres away from where you and Milind live, so obviously you did not notice. Also, it was not covered with such intensity for you to be glued to your television sets.

Had these attacks not taken place, let me assure you all these corporate waalas and waalis would not have cared. The city has not changed. These people have. The dabbawallas, cabbies, domestic helps, drivers do not find the city has changed “irrevocably”.

“The last few years, the focus on India has been tremendous, Mumbai has been called the new New York, Shanghai, London — and the city and country has gone from strength to strength.”


Then, honey, why don’t you shoot your films here? Create employment, help with the infrastructure.

“Our usually press-friendly, vociferous leaders were suddenly shy, it seemed, hiding in their ivory towers with their Z security. The only political face Mumbai saw in those abysmal days was that of the quiet, unobtrusive Milind Deora.”


Well, Milind is not exactly muddying his hands, unless it is rubble from the Taj/Hilton. And he will be answerable to the same people with Z security. Incidentally, that night he was returning from a social engagement and he has been quoted as saying that when he heard some gunshots being fired and a car being chased he thought they were headed towards his vehicle!

Those 72 hours created many wannabe martyrs.

For those who haven;t read it, here is my take again: 1992 vs. 2008: Mumbai’s Charge of the Lightweight Brigade

Amar, Azam and SP

Amar Singh says he will quit the Samajwadi Party and ditch his ‘brother’ Mulayam Singh Yadav. I would have been happier to see him change his bungalow’s name again from Aishwariya to whatever it was called originally. He is sulking because of his differences with Azam Khan of the same party. Yadav has said he will help resolve this feud.

I suspect there is no such feud. Everyone in the SP knows that Amar Singh brings in the shor-sharaaba (yeah, you can delete the ‘a’ at the end too). This looks like a neatly planned division. With Mayawati going for the upper castes, they want the Amar Singh faction to play that role, while Azam Khan woos the Imambara types on the side. See, politics too is becoming like modern medicine – too much specialisation.

Laloo-Rabri talk the baulk

Laloo-Rabri during the Chhat puja

They are insisting that Laloo Prasad Yadav should be arrested under the National Securities Act for his hate speech against Varun Gandhi.

What did Laloo say?

"Had I been the country's home minister, I would have crushed Varun Gandhi under a roller and destroyed him without caring for the consequences for his hate speech against Muslims.”


This would amount to attempted homicide, and depending on whether he was driving a BMW or a tractor he would be meted out a sentence accordingly.

His wife and RJD chief took on rival Nitish Kumar:

"Nitish is sitting in the lap of L K Advani, who was directly involved in pulling down the Babri mosque, but his dream will never come true."


Which dream won’t come true? The mosque has been demolished and he seems to be already sitting in the dream lap…maybe it is the dream to get somewhere. Like godi ke baad gaddi (Throne after the lap)?

Rahul’s new slogan: ‘Garibi bachao’

Rahul Gandhi with his 'pride'

One fine day Rahul Gandhi invited a British minister to a village in his constituency to show him the spirit of the poor. What is so difficult to digest about that? Wouldn’t a British MP invite one of our ministers for a spot of fox hunting or to watch the changing of guards or the spirited jugglers at Covent Garden?

Rahul had to justify himself:

“I don’t believe in hiding things I am proud of and I don’t believe in hiding the spirit of the poor. The difference between the Congress party and opponents… We are proud of the poor people of India. We believe in the poor people of India and they are ashamed of the poor in India.”


I honestly think this guy must be sent for some urgent classes. How can he be proud of the poor? Has he created them? Or their poverty? Or even their spirit?

If the Congress believes in the spirit of the poor, then does it follow that they plan to let them remain like this - “as they faced difficulties with a smile and they believe in this country”? It is called survival. Stop romanticising all this.

Neither the Congress nor the Opposition can be proud or ashamed of the poor. They have to jolly well do something for them. Unfortunately, our largest majority, the poor, cannot do a thing.

If anyone is interested

Mallika Sarabhai has responded to the post on her and I have replied. Both are here

SRK-Aamir: Dostana?

I found these pictures hilarious, and to think they are being analysed.
I shall merely caption them with songs...


Mere haath mein tera haath ho saari jannatein mere saath ho...


Jhuki-jhuki se nazar beqaraar hai ke nahin

dabaa dabaa saa sahi dil mein pyaar hain ke nahin

8.4.09

Too much shoe-sha


Reductionism. That is what everything has become.

By now the whole world and its sole-maker knows that home minister P.C.Chidambaram got a shoe thrown at him by an angry journalist from Dainik Jagran. I wish Jarnail Singh had tried to locate Jagdish Tytler, instead.

There are some who feel the action was uncalled for and uncouth. Our ministers are renowned for chappal-throwing right within the hallowed precincts of parliament when it is in session. The query was about Tytler, the criminal who has been let loose to contest elections again and been exonerated by the CBI. Unfortunately, the shoe throwing will not have much of an effect, unless this Jarnail Singh was planted by some members of the Congress who either genuinely believe that the culprits of 1984 must be arrested and sentenced or they just don’t like Tytler. There was a suggestion he could have been set-up by the BJP. Unlikely. The BJP would want Tytler to contest and then thrash him out.

I don’t care about the political parties. I just want this man to get the sentence he deserves. We label whole communities as criminals and only because this fellow is a big name there are tut-tuts about him being branded thus.

Having said this, I am completely against the Shiromani Akali Dal announcing a Rs 2 lakh cash award for the journalist. It isn’t about the support and anger expressed by an individual but the fate of thousands. The Dal could have donated this money to some charity working with the riot victims; I hope Jarnail Sigh either refuses the money outright or publicly donates it to whichever Sikh charity that still works among those affected he deems fit.

Or it would turn out to be just one more symbolic gesture reducing the immensity of the crime.

7.4.09

Mallika rules...and damn the voter


What a charming picture. Mallika Sarabhai is indeed a worthy candidate and she takes on no less than L.K.Advani.

She is contesting as an independent, but like all independents she would not mind joining secular forces. I am not sure what secular forces means any more. Some define it as sarva dharma sambhava (all religions have equal respect) which is rubbish, because the very foundation is to say whose is bigger.

Some say it is separation of state from religion. It doesn’t work in our country where every politician has to go to every place of worship and genuflect before every god or god-like figure, ring bells, light candles, place flowers over tombs. It is a veritable fancy dress competition when they get togged up for iftaar, and Christmas and Diwali “respecting the religious sentiments” of the folks they are going to be fed by. It’s all about food.

Some say you are secular if you don’t believe in god. I know atheists who can be bigots.

Anyhow, coming back to Mallika, I find this carrying a basket to collect money to file for her nomination papers too stagey. As though those dropping notes and coins are genuinely interested. These are people who enjoy a good tamasha as much as she probably did. Or, to be less cynical, they are the already converted.

Had an unknown number indulged in this, it would have been seen as something comic. Because it is a celebrity, it is Commitment.

Now, Mallika is committed – to dance, to her social causes. No doubt about it. But there was one time when she had held a peace meeting and refused to acknowledge that Medha Patkar had been invited only because there was violence and they were beaten up due to Medha’s involvement with the Narmada Bachao Andolan. Later, of course, it became a Mallika issue about being beaten up by Modi’s goons. Patkar had been upstaged.

I see this 'basket case' no differently.

We are watching how our corporate types are being promoted only because they do not have a criminal record and have never been corrupt. How do we know? Will we say the same thing with such certainty if a simple school teacher wanted to contest?

Accept it. We have inbuilt hierarchies and we work strictly along those lines of demarcation.

Mallika could well afford the Rs. 10,000 nomination fee and it does appear like a mockery when we think of, say, a worker at the refugee camp not being able to shell out that money if s/he were interested in contesting. That reminds me: Why would a Mallika or someone in that position not promote one such candidate instead? Would it not send out the right message and in fact be the message itself?

Of course, our dear Sir Salman Rushdie, who is now backing Mallika, would have not given a damn then. Incidentally, what are these prominent backers all about? Aren’t these committed candidates representing the common citizen or are they merely about showing off their liberal faces to each other?

All this sounds like political placebo.

Dancing for god?

She was a striptease artist, an exotic lap dancer titillating men in nightclubs across Milan. Today, she is a nun.




Anna Nobili found her new calling after a visit to the shrine of St Francis in Assisi in 2002. She has transformed her old profession and not given it up. According to a report:

Sister Nobili is due to perform in front of senior Catholic clerics later this week at the Holy Cross in Jerusalem Basilica, one of Rome’s best-known churches. The performance, based on stories from the Old and New Testaments, will be called The Bible: Day and Night. Among the guests expected to attend will be Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, who is in charge of the Vatican’s Cultural Department.


Would that make god happy or the clergy? I find this a bit disconcerting. Her change of heart is understandable, but how will those watching justify their position? Will there be nuns among the audience (the report only mentions that she will be dancing before bishops and cardinals)?

She says:

“I was wasting my life dancing for men in clubs. The nights were filled with sex and alcohol. It was an empty life but I liked it because I was the centre of attention.”


This “Ballerina for God”, as she calls herself, is seeking the same sort of attention now. She will be known not for her piety but her moves on stage. She may justify the dances as mystical and her latest performances may well be based on stories from the Bible, but religious tracts and mythology have been used often enough by mainstream dancers. Even pop stars have manipulated these – the Cross, Sanskrit shlokas, the Sufi twirl, such references to god abound. What makes her different?

“But now my life has been transformed. I still dance but now I dance for God and I’m happy. All my choreography is dedicated to Him. My aim is to pray using my body.”


This appears to be the antithesis of what the Catholic Church would like. It denies the devotee the luxury of any vanity and riches and the body is subservient to the soul.

Here, she is blatantly referring to her body as a means to prayer. This is almost like marketing it, whatever the purpose might be.

Would she have grabbed the headlines had she been just another dancer?

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Sister Nobili performs

5.4.09

The media hierarchy - who gets to say what and other crap

This news would not have bothered me, except that the discussion has been brought up on my blog as well. How many people have ticked off PM Manmohan Singh for asking for the US president’s autograph? And then how many have dissed a television reporter for a banter with Barack Obama?

Since it is being reported in the blog world as well as some sections of the media, there is reason to raise some questions. One bloke even said that he had not commented thus far because he thought he might give a fellow scribe her moment of glory. Ooh, how considerate!

The IANS story mentions:

A young Indian reporter was "walking on air" after being treated to a bit of the old Obama magic at the end of the G20 summit here Thursday.


So what? If it was not important at all, then why even bother to report it? They are flashing her ‘before Obama’ and ‘after Obama’ pictures, for god’s sake, and linking the video clip!

Did anyone diss Neeta Ambani when she talked about the Obama charm and how he remembered to address her by name, which was pinned on her lapel anyway? What about those groupie NRIs who were behaving like lapdogs during the pre-election rallies? What about Hollywood celebrities who were singing paeans about “change”?

We always tend to pick on the soft targets.

The report is by a senior journalist and this is how he goes about it:

When Obama picked her out of nowhere, Ghuman asked how his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went, and whether the two had discussed Pakistan and terrorism.


What the hell does “picked her out of nowhere” mean? She was a part of the press conference where 2500 journalists were present. Is there an element of jealousy here that she was chosen? If so, then it is Obama’s problem, not hers. These fat cats always want to be the first among equals. And please note her question – it is about his meeting with the PM and whether they discussed Pakistan and terrorism.

Why did Obama choose to reduce it to the level of banter (”I am only teasing you”)?

The reporter has every right to say she is proud of our PM, if indeed she is, if the subject of her interview does his patronising act; the report mentions that this was his first meeting with Dr. Singh. So, was Obama walking on air when he skirted the question she posed him and decided to salivate over our PM?

"I think he's a very wise and decent man. And he's done a wonderful job of guiding India, even prior to being prime minister, along a path of extraordinary economic growth that is a marvel, I think, for all the world," Obama said.


I hold no brief for this reporter; I have watched the channel she represents maybe about five or six times. But let us not get all holier-than-thou and give this issue our self-righteous treatment.

The fawning over Obama was visible ever since he became the candidate. And at his inauguration there was a poem “Praise Song for the Day,” written and recited by Elizabeth Alexander.

And those who are talking about being professional please watch some of the seniors in action. Damn, they dress up specially for their interviews with foreigners and make it seem like it is the best thing to have happened to them.

Some TV reporter climbs up a tree to get a scoop on the Abhishek Bachchan wedding; where is the self-respect?

Does anyone question the presence of hi-fi society writers at sponsored events when they would run down a junior reporter for being there? Hey, one of these divas, who did not get the treacle treatment she expected, had the gumption to even say that the journalists who she had invited were sponging on her husband’s expensive whiskey. What do these creatures themselves do when they attend yacht parties and other shit? Oh, I forgot, they go as legitimate saath phere liye hue arm candies.

Senior columnists go ga-ga over a little trot on the ramp by Naomi Campbell while running down our own models.

Where are the bloggers and commentators when it is time to pull up these media hypocrites?

Nuff said.