One-leg Standing: Beyond Parodying Jolie

Angelina Jolie would have been an enigma, except that she chose to take the road to everywhere. Her leg flash is only the latest ‘phenomenon’.

Jolie’s sorties into being different are really sharp tactics, for after a while one can only do so much with goldfish lips or pillow mouth or whatever they call those. She has in the past worn her former partner’s blood in a locket, a ‘pure’ exchange that ended the way most such relationships do – in a mess. She has spoken in a rather incestuous manner about her brother. She has mentioned her lesbian outings, her promiscuity, her fidelity, and just as passionately in what might be seen as a different attitude about her ‘rainbow family’. The world of the underdeveloped became her haunt from where she got her motherhood. Her idea of of it is often questioned as is the modus operandi she uses to go about procuring kids.

Jolie does not need attention. She parks herself in the central square and puckers her lips to speak or to be silent. So, why has that Oscar red carpet moment captured the imagination of so many who have seen her legs, and many legs, and more?

She was playing to the gallery as much as to herself. This is typical behaviour of someone who has to prove she still has it. It can arise from boredom, from insecurity, from sensuality that has been suppressed willfully or has not had the opportunity to be unleashed. This might sound surprising. There is so much of public display of lust, romance and even family bonding. Why is she then behaving like a bored housewife at Chippendale’s, seemingly whistling at the boys but really at herself?

She has caught on to the fact that people don’t live for posterity moments. Her leg is as much or less as Pippa Middleton’s butt was. The latter has capitalised on it; Angelina does not need to. Her trip is to “gather ye rose buds while ye may”. The flash is like a card for flash memory span. That pose was a pose in more ways than one.

Its digitalised imprints have found place everywhere. Unlike a diva one might expect to be deified, she is being caricatured. Some may think that the spinoffs are a tribute. Indeed, much as Hitler’s moustache is, which symbolised so many things, Jolie’s leg does not. It is an appendage, especially since the pair has been reduced to one.

However, some of the reworked pictures can be analysed, whether or not they were meant to. Here are a few thoughts:

Used in well-known art works, it is pop culture superimposed on classicism. In Michelangelo's famous ‘Adam and the Finger of God’ could it be Eve’s intrusion, a leg-up to the spare rib? A feministic statement?

On political figures, it can mean different things – Angela Merkel has already exposed a good deal of cleavage and been part of an advertising campaign, so it is probably to only sex her up; Hitler in a trench coat with a leg showing comes across as part humour, part an expression of a softer inside or an openness of a streamlined approach to ‘whiteness’.

Barack Obama getting a kick in the behind is less an insult and more an almost gratifying gesture; I am quite sure that this is the work of a Democrat who clearly believes that the President is a fun guy in the sack, even as his bending down conveys humility. The black stiletto is just what the doctor ordered after a hard day’s night morning after.

On symbols like Christ, the Pope, or even the Queen of England, the leg appears to humanise them. Some of those photoshopping would probably not have thought about it – it is likely that for them it is an “everything goes” attitude. It does not, and that is the reason there is an element of sobriety in the ‘leg’.

The Statue of Liberty has been so often imagined – much like Monalisa – that to give it any spin is difficult. Perhaps, it is America liberated from itself?

All the images eventually turn out to be about us. How we perceive monuments, people, totems – of the past or the present. Angelina Jolie is merely an asset to bank on. There is a clause here, though. Her time out might well be recalled occasionally, as do wardrobe malfunctions and drunken brawls. More than all that is the fact that now even the famous hanker after fifteen minutes of fame.

End note:

Professor Stephen Hawking visits sex clubs in California. It’s become news. Of how he is accompanied by his nurses and assistants and they have even watched as he lay fully clothed in the ‘play area’ as girls danced naked over him. Fine. Nothing unusual. Is it his fame or his physical debility that has drawn more than its share of attention?

His commercial agent Robin Morgan put out a statement: “Stephen has a wicked sense of humour!”

Frankly, is this the way he enjoys a good joke? An honest response would have been, so what? Or, yes, he likes what we all do. But, no. The girls are for laughs. Of course, because of his huge intelligence and the fact that the women are ‘performers’ no will call him sexist.

May I then, in jest, refer to his great work as the Brief's History of Time?


Marred: Snapshots of post-Godhra

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.” 

- Clarence Darrow

You are waiting, right? Waiting for my anti-Modi tirade, waiting to see me whine, waiting for me to demonise the man who has developed a state. You are waiting…

Today, ten years later, instead of asking where is justice, where is remorse (I have stated ever-so-often that remorse is the easy way out), I wonder if things would have been different if Narendra Modi were not in power. Why do I say this? Last night I watched a show on CNN-IBN: United by Grief. There were two unities, two sides.

A group of young IT professionals were asked by Rajdeep Sardesai if they believed in moving on since they thought Modi was a hero? They nodded. Yes. I would have liked to hear those words from their mouths: "Modi is our hero". Why is it assumed?

Would they let this sort of thing happen again? No, they said in unison.

This just gives legitimacy to ‘moving on’, the inheritors of a bright and shining world. Will they live in the state or will they move to another country? Does anyone know? And, more importantly, does the assurance that it will not happen again mean that what has happened in contemporary India under the watchful eyes of the Constitution should not be rectified? I am tired of people being forced to say, “At least there should be some expression of remorse.”

I am not only tired. I am sick of it. It makes my blood boil. On the show, even ordinary people were saying that had the train not been burned down the riots would not have taken place. This is how they have been brainwashed. Then there are the poor, who share the lane and the excreta-ridden toilet, but they cannot forget. Or forgive. There are many lump-in-the-throat moments. Watch it and weep a little.

We are one, is the anthem. But who are the ‘we’ and how do we understand oneness? Anyone wants irony? Here, let me regurgitate a few snapshots.

If you have read some of my stuff before, read it again.

- - -

  • Three factories owned by a Bohra businessman were gutted. He wrote to say that all his 200 employees are Hindu, jobless, and they protected the sole Muslim, a watchman.
  • A warehouse was torched because its owner was a Muslim. He manufactured urns and stretchers used for Hindu funerals.
  • A well-to-do-family has only the charred remains of their house to show. The wife is a Hindu, the man a Muslim. It took him 18 years to build that house and make money. He was afraid of going back even to rebuild it. He said he was seriously thinking of migrating to some other country.

February 27, 2002. Mr. Modi said, “Godhra was not an incident befitting civil society”. Why does he not apply the same standards to his party’s behaviour? Why were Muslims wearing black bands as a sign of protest wrong and the RJN celebrating the conquest of Ayodhya as ‘swabhimaan divas’ (day of self-respect) acceptable? If the attack on the train was pre-planned, then were the subsequent riots completely an emotional outburst? Why was there no rioting on the same day? Why did they wait for the VHP call for a bandh and then go around torching houses and people?

- - -

I have roots in Gujarat, spanning from the port town of Jafferabad to Bhuj in Kutch. Only ghosts walk there. If relatives live, I do not know them. Vaddi Maa (my grand-aunt) was our only link for a long while, a short frail woman who cackled like a hyena. She would send postcards and invariably talk about, “Doodh ketlo gaadho chhe aiyyan” (the milk is so thick here). A young relative had gone on a discovery trip and despite his long hair and diamond stud in ear, he was treated like a king with, yes, huge steel tumblers of milk. Vaddi Maa was dead. When I visited, I had heard that the house was not there anymore. So I skirted that route and looked for traces of myself in other cities where my ancestors may have passed through. I found nothing. I did not feel the pull that I experience whenever I am in Mumbai or returning to it.

- - -

The guy at immigrations was taking an inordinately long time scrutinising my passport, stamped with memories of many countries. He was punching away and refused to look up at me. I could not utter a word. I kept pinching myself to control the anger rising in me. My fate was being decided by an obscure man with the right name and religion. Mine were wrong as he spat out, “Hmmm….Farjaana Var…Var…shee…” and then he banged the book on the table, a document that declared me a citizen of the Republic of India.

Pandey was driving me from the airport. On the way home, I kept looking for signs; it was too dark to read minds. When we reached the flyover, he said, “Aap jab yahaan nahin the unka log ne Sabarmati Express ko jalaa diya.” Unka log? I opened my mouth to ask what happened after that, but restrained myself. I refused to let him bring the baggage up to the door. Old newspapers were stuck between the house grills. I pulled them out, trying to make sense of the shreds.

  • “VHP calls Vajpayee a naya Musslaman”.
  • “VHP asks TV channel not to send Muslim”.
  • “They let our van pass only after we agreed to chant ‘Jai Sri Ram’…and this in a place close to the CM’s residence”(Rajdeep Sardesai, political editor, STAR News).
  • “Fearing that he would be perceived as a Muslim, on Saturday a person asked me to shave off his French beard. He had sported that style for years but the recent events had frightened him enough to make him shave it off” (Bhupendrabhai, a barber from Vastrapur).
  • “I was attacked by a mob of around 25 at Velajpur. It was presumed that I was a Muslim because of the colour of my hair. I, fortunately, could convince them that I am a Hindu and was spared eventually” (Shraban, Rajiv Nagar).
  • “It seems like paranoia but I felt it is better not to wear green as I was going out” (Meenal Patel).

Modi had refused to extend the probe to the riots, yet insisted it was a natural backlash. Why was he then confusing the ‘separate issues’?

I was coming back from a holiday in a safe place, Malaysia, but did not feel like a Muslim there at all. I was not catching the news, so did not know about the events. Till I got the text message. It sounded ominous. I began to feel guilty and wanted to rush back home. Soon. Unsafe or whatever, I had to be where I belong. This is also the place of my most potent nightmare. Each time I try to exorcise those demons, something new happens.

Am I afraid of riots? Yes, because of memories of once walking through ashes…

You are waiting for me to throw off the shoes, aren't you? Will you also walk into my mind and scrape away every remnant?

(c)Farzana Versey

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Update: I am not publishing comments on this, and had kept the option open to see just how things would swing. Now, I have closed the comments (irrespective of their content) for this post. Here was the one I had posted. (The reaction to it was along the earlier lines):

FV said...

I have not published any comments on this post. It has shocked and disappointed me that people can be so insensitive. This is not the first time I have written on the subject. And this would most certainly not be the first time I'd get criticism. No one can say that their views have not been given space here because they disagree with me.

There was a difference with this one. It was written with grief. I did not imagine there'd be personal attacks on me. For what? A man you do not know and many claim not to care about?

I did not publish the comments. Today I got one piece of advice, "Stop vetting too strictly. Or the comments will dry up."

Thank you. But I have respected debate; I do not have place or inclination for personal slurs.

Comments have usually added to what I write. The ones not published were trying to reduce it to the lowest common denominator. I don't cater to the coin-throwing crowd.
02/03/2012 19:18

The house that Bin Laden Built?

The 'mansion' has been razed. But ghosts need no houses.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

"Pakistan authorities demolished the three-story house in Abbottabad where Osama bin Laden lived for years and died last May during a raid by U.S. Navy SEALs in an apparent bid to stop it becoming a tourist site or shrine for al Qaeda supporters..."

We are told this is a decision taken by Pakistani security agencies. The US has not been informed. One has to be naive to believe this. True Pak-US relations are at a low after the November killings of 24 Pakistani soldiers, but this is a ruse.

Osama was the most wanted man. The US hunt for him took them on a warpath, resulting in thousands of deaths. If he lived here for five years, and in that quick operation they managed to take away "boxes of materials", does it mean the safe house has no value for them anymore?

They say that the proximity to the military academy is an embarrassment to Pakistan. Pakistan says it did not know about it. As for America:

"Until now, however, the U.S. has stated it has found no evidence that Pakistan's military or government helped shelter the former al Qaeda leader."

So the soured relationship theory just does not work. The whole tourist attraction-shrine idea is lame, too.

The romanticisation of Osama relied on his hiding in caves, not in a badly-structured house, hunched over a television television watching porn DVDs, and using Viagra.

The US killed the image of Osama.

Pakistan is helping it to demolish every trace. It is a mutual understanding. For a country that revels in symbols, it is hard to imagine the US did not want to keep a watch over the site and just move on after the burial by the sea.

Something more than a building is destroyed, and America jolly well knows what that is.


Sunday ka Funda

“Don’t be offended if someone says ‘sexy’, rather take it positively.”

- National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Mamta Sharma

Expectedly, there will be a pro and anti stand on this regarding feminism. The problem is that the word has lost its true calling due to rampant usage. Food is sexy, ideas are sexy, politics is sexy, sanyas is sexy.

I’d say women cannot be advised on this. They could feel offended depending on who makes the remark and in what context. Besides, different women see sexiness differently.

Here are a few quotes I identify with:

  • “From the moment I was six I felt sexy. And let me tell you it was hell, sheer hell, waiting to do something about it.” – Bette Davis
  • “I find it very difficult to draw a line between what's sex and what isn't. It can be very, very sexy to drive a car, and completely unsexy to flirt with someone at a bar.” – Bjork
  • “I dress sexily - but not in an obvious way. Sexy in a virginal way.” – Victoria Beckham
  • “I like someone who is a little crazy but coming from a good place. I think scars are sexy because it means you made a mistake that led to a mess.” – Angelina Jolie
And, yes, I find the word uttered in a low hoarse voice sexy.


There's a Mughal in your drink

How many of you give your children the health drink Complan? If you are Hindu then you are an insult to your religion. You are glorifying Mughals. The ad for the product is under fire by the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) for this depiction:

In a class-room, a (Hindu) teacher asks a boy the name of father of King Jehangir. The student shows as if he is unable to recollect the name and the teacher asks the same question to another student when he answers the question immediately telling the name of Jehangir’s father. The credit of the boy answering the question correctly is given to ‘Complan’.

The organisation wants the company to withdraw the ad and all TV channels to stop airing it. I was surprised by the Hindutva droppings in my inbox were so darned serious. I took a look at the whole letter. Here's one bit:

“Why do you remember only the history of Mughals who oppressed Indians? We are living in Bharat; therefore, we should teach glorifying history of Indians. Teach children history of great kings like Vikramaditya, Harshavardhan, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj etc. else an agitation would be staged in protest. Devout Hindus and Indians will boycott your products. Advertisements of companies like Cadbury and Amul which made mockery of history have been earlier stopped.”

I think all Hindu actors and models should be boycotted too if they wear clothes that are remotely reminiscent of the Mughal era. Why was the film Jodha Akbar not banned? What about Hritik Roshan and Aishwariya Rai? Designers creating Anarkali kurtas and angarkhas should be punished. No cuisine that has any connection with the Mughals should be cooked; those restaurants should be shut down.

Come to think of it, shut down all of Delhi; it has too many monuments. Rashtrapati Bhavan has the Mughal Gardens. The President of India should vacate that little house and apologise to Hindus for walking on those lawns and smelling the outsized flowers.

That leaves the Taj Mahal. All Hindu lovers posing before the monument on that ubiquitous bench are insulting their faith. I think Arnold Schwarzenegger who could not take a look inside since he visited on a Friday should be allowed to take over. He’ll manage it as well as he managed his housekeeper. Given that Complan is manufactured by a multinational it is only fitting that we hand over all things that remind us of the Mughals to the west. I really look forward to a ranch in Humayun’s tomb and Taco Bell at the Taj.

We are living in an age of the ridiculous. Someone really believes that because ‘Complan’ denotes brainpower in the ad and a Mughal king was mentioned, it would immediately suggest that only such knowledge is considered important. There is an ad for Taj Mahal tea where just a sip of it makes the Eiffel Tower disappear, such is the impact. Why not withdraw that as well? Or the soap ad where the mother teaches her child during a bath with a song that goes, “Babar ka beta Humayun, Humayun ka Akbar”?

I know she could have said, “Shahaji Rao ka beta Shivaji, aur Shivaji ka Sambhaji”? Look at it this way. The Mughals were obsessed with the good life – baths, scents, food, milk. The Hindu kings were spartan in their habits, and this is the message of what is unstated. The Mughals were good only for soap suds.

Anyhow, there are many ayurvedic products with rishi-munis telling us what to do with different parts of the body, and Baba Ramdev makes up for it by huffing and puffing. Our children are quite safe. Unless, of course, there comes an ad for male deodorant that would talk about the “Aurangzeb effect” or a hair salon that calls itself Babar’s Barber.


The Dolphin Person

I have nothing against dolphins. In fact, I find them delightful. However, the scientific understanding of them as individuals, raises a few questions.

The Centre for Ethics and Business at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles has come up with a ten-point charter for “life, liberty and wellbeing”, among others.

A group of scientists and ethicists argues there is sufficient evidence of the marine mammals' intelligence, self-awareness and complex behaviour to enshrine their rights in legislation. Under the declaration of rights for cetaceans, a term that includes dolphins, whales and porpoises, the animals would be protected as "non-human persons" and have a legally enforceable right to life.

Is intelligence the only yardstick to project an ethical perception of rights? This would put to test many humans – the physically handicapped, the mentally challenged, those who behave differently from what is the norm, and those who might not quite fathom the complex nature of abstract thought. There are parts of the world where people still live on basic necessities and follow rudimentary rules of social intercourse.

"Dolphins are non-human persons. A person needs to be an individual. And if individuals count, then the deliberate killing of individuals of this sort is ethically the equivalent of deliberately killing a human being. The captivity of beings of this sort, particularly in conditions that would not allow for a decent life, is ethically unacceptable, and commercial whaling is ethically unacceptable.”

The scientists quoted examples of how dolphins know to work on the reward principle. Early experiments conducted on rats have shown similar behaviour. Dogs, as in the Pavlov experiment, expressed their reaction through salivation. There is an understanding where survival makes animals and humans behave in a certain manner.

So, is such ethical treatment based on a human paradigm the right and only one? Protecting a species is fine. But is it really necessary to ‘dignify’ it on the basis of being a ‘person’. This, strangely enough, contradicts the effort to not treat human beings as superior. Then, why elevate only some species to that level?

Animal rights activists might want all animals to be protected. The movement against zoos, cages, slaughter, meat-eating has been active and often vocal. They too use the human in a trapped situation to emphasise the point about rights. It does not quite work because there is a tendency to glamorise and bring out the beast in the person behind the cage or dressed in fur. It sexes up the message.

The dolphin lobby is using a parallel argument by saying that they are ‘non-human persons’ and therefore as good as individuals.

I can see that there is a pecking order here, and wonder just how a species will seek to gain the sanctified position of being human. It really isn’t the best thing to be when the record of human rights is abysmal and the ethics of how certain being are treated as opposed to others affords it less ethical validity than an elephant squashing an ant unknowingly.

RSS votes for British Rule...

...and the rest of India wants to be foreign

It is shameful that the chief of a ‘nationalist’ group, the RSS, feels that India was better off during British rule. Isn’t the RSS always crying itself hoarse to protect our heritage even if it means asserting it through violence?

Mohan Bhagwat’s reasoning is flawed, anyway:

"After Independence, the dominance of rich and powerful people in politics and rising inflation have worsened the country's situation, which is worse than what it was during the British rule. All political parties were in power some or the other time during the last 64 years since Independence, but the situation has not improved. Hence, citizens must introspect over what went wrong."

There were rich and powerful princes and even business houses during British rule; they were protected depending on how loyal they were. In that, nothing has changed. How is it worse? Development strategies are now the burden of the Indians in power; during British rule, the wealthy did not have to worry about these issues. They lived in their principalities and worked in what may be charitably called an obsequious federal structure.

The situation of the poor was as bad, if not worse. At least on paper today one can question concepts of slavery and bonded labour. The colonisers, in order to avail of chattels, permitted the brown sahibs their indulgences as reward for fidelity.

It is a bit strange that the RSS that was formed to protest against British rule is now singing its praises. Stranger still is the confusion. Mr. Bhagwat states:

"Today, there is an insistence on education in a foreign language (English), instead of education in the mother tongue. As a result, the importance of the foreign language has increased to a large extent in the country.”

So, what language were the British promoting? How foreign is a language that is constitutional and, more important, just how many people know that language? This is hitting out at straws. Most people learn their local language, and education has to be broad-based. The concept of the ‘mother tongue’ is limiting, and inherited. Listening to lullabies in it is fine, but what beyond that?

Mr. Bhagwat does come to the nitty-gritty:

"Even 64 years after Independence, India is being threatened by China and Pakistan. With rising concerns over internal security, we should give top priority to military education to students to make India strong.”

Obviously, during British rule we had no threat from Pakistan and China. The colonisers were the internal threat. Did Indians have military training then? Except for some of the rebel armies and the revolutionaries, the battles were fought with passion and little else. What we are faced with now are security issues that have to deal with diplomatic ones as well. While there are border disputes, the governments are also talking about other things. There is insurgency, but neither of these two countries will ever colonise us.

Military education would entail the power of procuring licensed weapons. How many such students will make India strong? Why not encourage them to join the army or other legitimate combat forces? Do we want a militarily equipped country without any other form of education? What has the RSS done for India with all the training it gives its members in the camps?

It is pertinent, though not surprising at all, that Mr. Bhagwat makes no mention of the terror within and the several states and groups at war for space and identity.

- - -

I’d like to digress here about this attitude towards what is foreign. It has to do with our utter contempt for what is indigenous. Even parties that talk about our culture and fight petty battles against westernisation want to be like others. UP Chief Minister, through a leap of faith and imagination, thinks Lucknow is like Paris. With those granite pedestals and statues in different materials, this would not even qualify as kitsch. That aside, does Lucknow not have a fine culture of its own? What about those nukkads, the food, the weaves, the ambience?

The whole of India is in rapt attention over the elections in that state and we have to listen to this tripe about a local Paris. Imagine what would happen if Sonia Gandhi were to say that Amethi is like Sicily, or Delhi like Rome, or Mumbai like Milan? Her foreign origin would be skewered yet again.

Obviously, it does not make sense. But, from the lakes in Nainital to the backwaters of Allepey, we are Venice. Mumbai’s leaders want it to be like Singapore or Shanghai, depending on what noodles they prefer.

Can’t we have some pride in what we are and what we can be? Weirdly, when it comes to marketing our filth for filthy lucre, we are quite ready.

End note:

“A judge should live like a hermit but should work like a horse” 

– Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia

The law is an ass, and it is donkeys that work. Perhaps the CJI should have considered the fact that the best horses run races, and hermits live by ‘absenting’ themselves. It might have made more sense if he flipped his statement. Let them work like hermits – sparse with no strings attached, and live like horses – always in a ‘stable’ position wearing blinkers occasionally.

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Images Times, cartoons by Raj Thackeray (courtesy my inbox)



Now exchanging mails, sending text messages, and disbursing information on social networking sites will assure you posterity. At least for one year.

Unlike most people who talk of censorship and freedom, I am quite excited about the UK government move for a new “spy plan” simply because it is so daft and also I have never had a nanny. So, if they plan to keep a “watch”, I am even willing to pay for changing some whiner’s e-diapers.

What’s the deal here?

Landline and mobile phone companies and broadband providers will be ordered to store the data for a year and make it available to the security services under the scheme. The databases would not record the contents of calls, texts or emails but the numbers or email addresses of who they are sent and received by.

The plan has been drawn up on the advice of MI5, the home security service, MI6, which operates abroad, and GCHQ, the Government’s “listening post” responsible for monitoring communications.

Now, this is true global reach. I have said this before. Even if the surveillance is not official, it is quite easy to know what’s happening. I have had obsessed people find out stuff that had been deleted long ago. They have no idea how much that helped me rediscover myself.

What gets to me is the intent, though: The London Olympics could be the target of terror attacks. Can there be nothing in this world that takes place without the word ‘terror’ in it? Calls, emails, websites all store data. How many intelligence agencies have traced culprits through these methods? I mean, didn’t David Headley had to visit India, and join a gym, only to get video details of prominent sites? Google maps would have done that. The U.S. drones cannot find the right guys, so they aim at all angles and end up with more civilian deaths.

There is another concern expressed regarding the spying:

Access to such information would be highly prized by hackers and could be exploited to send spam email and texts. Details of which websites people visit could also be exploited for commercial gain.

More than commercial gain, I am worried that spam would become a dodgy tool to spread terror, perhaps by those in charge of shielding. This whole exercise is not a preventive measure but one meant to create a xenophobic atmosphere. The UK has a huge population that lives in ghetto areas that it sees as risky. They do not need internet connections to trace them. Just position the big guys in the lanes and it might work.

Now, the tele-companies will hold the information. Since they have the authority to access IP addresses, phone numbers, network IDs, they will sell fear. Security devices. Bullet proof glasses. Paddocks. Pepper spray cans. Manuals. How To Identify The Guy Who Will Blow Up The Trampoline?

Just suppose you make a call or receive a call to or from a wrong number in “real time”, what will happen? I get many such calls and all I hear is heavy breathing. I wait for the person to catch her/his breath. It chalks up minutes. Will it register as a legitimate call? I may click on a website link that is considered unsafe. Even the person sending it may not realise it, for some little cookie might get embedded and one could end up with being suspect.

Just look at the recent history of how terrorists have been tracked and you will see that it had nothing to do with what they were downloading. And the recent discovery about the Osama bin Laden operation tells us that no one really knows what is happening. Did President Musharraf know about the Abbottabad 'safe house'? That means someone is protecting the former President inside Pakistan even today. It's also quite hilarious. They actually had an architect from the ISI for that rundown compound. If for nothing else, the ISI should feel ashamed of its utter lack of taste. Even caves look better.

I digress. Or maybe not. This is what we will get from surveillance. And people will have to just live with it, even though they already are. The government knows that WikiLeaks can reveal its own chinks, so how secure are ordinary people?

As for me, I am chuffed and quite complacent. In fact, I look forward to being given the glad eye.

(c) Farzana Versey

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Image: Huffington Post


Sunday ka Funda

"Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there"

- Will Rogers

- - -

Life is a highway - Rascal Flatt


Ask the vexpert - 30

Question: My wife and I have been married for almost a year now.She has a very peculiar fetish she tells me to oil my pubic hair and create a parting so she can play with my penis properly. She also keeps talking to my penis.I however just dont get an erection and feel like a loser.I am very demotivated.Can you please talk to my wife about this?

Sexpert: I am surprised;most men would be turned on by her actions.Why not listen to her and feel proud about all the nice things she must be telling your member;unless she is telling him how lousy she feels that all her praise is getting wasted.Talk to her and convince her to do things that will arouse you to action on some occasions;that will be the middle path to happiness for both of you. 

Me: Your penis is an individual in his own right, as you would have discovered several times. The scenario could be:

  1. This is your wife’s version of oral sex.
  2. She is more comfortable talking with him in her search for emotional quotient that you seem to not possess.
  3. Her demanding that you oil the hair and stuff indicates that she treats you as an errand boy, which you can take to another level.

The good thing is you do not have to listen to her constant refrain of “Talk to me” and you don’t have to listen to her. Instead of feeling low, think about how you can spend the time reading, watching TV, getting some shut eye. Of course, you will be undressed and may surf certain sites that could cause excitement. The other male may respond and then it depends on your wife – whether she is ready for a conversation and some hard talk or prefers her monologue.

If it is the latter, you will have to, when she is not around, talk to your buddy. Tell him that you are the provider and if he persists in this sort of adulterous relationship you will cut off blood supply to the vessels. Your mind has to be assertive.

The other alternative is to start oiling the hair on your head and parting it. Maybe your wife will transfer her affections on top and ease your task. You might enjoy being called a dickhead, after all.

Update: The Israeli Attacks and Indian Investigations

An eyewitness account and CCTV footage go for a toss. Tal Yehoshua Koren, the injured wife of the Israeli diplomat – why does the media insist on referring to her as a diplomat? Did she hold some office? – has given her statement:

“I saw a biker close to my car when I was going to the American embassy. There was a push on the car from behind and I saw the biker. I thought the biker had touched the car. I even lowered the windowpanes to say something to him but he escaped by then. As I remember, the biker was wearing a black helmet and black clothes. I think the bike he was riding was also a black one.”

The initial reports had mentioned that she was going to fetch her kids from school. The latest report says:

The investigators reportedly gave her the version of events as reported by eyewitness Gopal Krishnan. What she revealed after that took the cops by surprise. She said, “The bomb exploded almost 30 to 40 seconds after there was a sudden push on the car.”

Officials said if the bomb took that long to explode, its make would be different from what was being presumed and it would have a timer or remote device as well. “We have to take a relook at all our theories,” an official said. Asked if she had noticed any biker following her, Koren said no. Investigators say Koren’s statements will change the probe approach. “CCTV footages would be rechecked now for tracking black bikes,” said a source.

Have the cops spoken to the other two who were in the car, including the driver? A car being pushed would alert the driver, and surely he would look into the rear-view mirror. The 'sticky bomb’ can be used on a stationary vehicle. Reports mentioned that this was done at the traffic intersection.

Our investigative agencies come out looking foolish based on the version of someone who was inside the car. Sure, look for black bikes, but why discount red bikes and brown jackets? This combination is far more distinctive. Or perhaps an all-purpose black will make it difficult and keep theories floating around? Our officials had assumed it was a low-intensity device that explodes within three to five seconds. Now that the time-frame has changed, they are looking at the possibility of it being remote controlled, which they had earlier too but are making it sound like a new angle. 

What would this entail? That the cops do not have to restrict their search to the radius of a few metres. It could be from anywhere, even a passing vehicle, which may not be a bike. The lady has left for Israel in an air ambulance. Her one statement has changed everything. Should she not be here and allowed to recuperate? Will she be called upon as witness should the culprit be caught? If not, then her statement cannot be taken as the absolute truth for investigative purposes, for an identification is not possible as the face was behind a helmet.

Since Home Minister P Chidambaram had already declared, "We think the target was the Israeli diplomat's wife and therefore we have to assume this was a terror attack", the victim has to be around.
Indian agencies will be pulled up regularly. And who is overseeing this? Mossad. Yes, I told you so.

Let’s get one thing clear. If you dish out conspiracy theories, then learn to take them too.


Israeli Embassies Attacked: Whose Vengeance and Unholy Wars are These?

With the top leaders accusing Iran, Israel is not only holding India to ransom but also trying to play its victim-aggressor game here.

Whose Vengeance and Unholy Wars are These?
Israeli Embassies Attacked
by Farzana Versey
Counterpunch, February 14 & Countercurrents Feb 16)

Monday. February 13. 3.54 pm. A bomb explodes in the car of an Israeli diplomat. Three people, including the defence attaché’s wife Tal Yehoshua, are grievously injured.

30 minutes later, embassy officials are examining the remains of the vehicle in an area that has been cordoned off by the police.

Within three hours, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accuses the Hizbullah and Iran:

“Iran, which stands behind these attacks, is the largest exporter of terror in the world. The Israeli government and its security forces will continue to work together with local security services against these terrorist actions.”

He is pre-empting the inquiry, and the media is already talking about “Hizbullah in Delhi” and “Israel targeted in India”. We are calling ourselves a soft state when our own hardliners and security forces have been killing citizens inside the country.

The question is not whether global terror is being fought on Indian soil but how much of it is being arranged here. If it is legitimate to ask about the role of local handlers, then why has there been no concern about the incident of a planned vengeance by Israelis?

Cut to a report a few days ago when there was palpable revenge. The couple, Shneor Zalman and Yaffa Shenoi, arrived in India on a multiple-entry visa in March 2010. After the visa expired, they went back and returned within a month. What was their purpose that they paid a “disproportionately high rent” of Rs. 50,000 a month for a house in Fort Kochi, Kerala? A senior official was quoted in a report saying:

“Central intelligence got an alert about a covert operation being carried out by suspected Israeli agents after the 26/11 Mumbai terror strike in which south Mumbai’s Chabad House came under attack and six Jews, including a Rabbi and his pregnant wife, were killed. We have traced the couple’s financial transactions. They will be questioned before they are deported. Preliminary investigations suggest some Israelis are camping in various parts of the country.”

This comes from official sources and all that they think of is deporting the couple. There has been complete silence from the usually active dispensers of opinion, too.

Let us return to the scene of Monday’s crime. The Indian and international media have gone ballistic about it without a shred of evidence. If the argument is that the Indian prime minister's house is in the vicinity and reveals lapses in our security, then why is no one apprehensive about our situation? It raises questions beyond safety measures. Why are we falling in line with Israeli rules? What is the American effort in this proxy war? It is not Hizbullah that is fighting in India, but Israel.

With the top leaders’ comments, Israel is not only holding India to ransom but also trying to play its victim-aggressor game here. A bomb that went off simultaneously in Georgia was defused, for it does not resonate well with the anti-Arab/Iran narrative. One is not condoning any such attacks, but this most certainly does not look like a war against Israel, a state that has got its armour in place. Mossad is as pervasive as the CIA.


Sunday ka Funda

It's the same story. Struggle. Fame. Coping. Despondency. Falling. Rising. Falling. Slowly. Fast. Living. Fast. Slowing. Dying. Dead. Whitney Houston. No More.

Can't understand why, why, must a woman be so many things? Why must she sing "I'm Everywoman"?

I can cast a spell
Of secrets you can tell
Mix a special brew
Put fire inside of you
Anytime you feel danger or fear
Instantly I will appear,cause

I´m every woman...


Trial and Terror of the Gujarat Riots Verdict

There are no victors here. From the circle of inquiries into the Gujarat riots what comes out is that there are too many straw martyr-heroes. And they are not the ones who have died.

The neo-shaheeds are those responsible for their deaths as well as those who have used the victims. I have been reading ridiculous ‘generous’ statements that this whole episode should be forgotten; it will be good for Muslims. The internet warriors and peaceniks have no business to talk on behalf of those who have suffered. By the same token, I would be wary of those who will use the shoulders of prominent petitioners to fire their agendas from.

How can there be any triumph when there is many a slip between the Special Investigations Team (SIT) cup and the Gujarat High Court lip? It is a case of good cop, bad cop and I think both are part of the same game plan.

The ‘clean’ chit:

The Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team (SIT) on Wednesday gave a clean chit to chief minister Narendra Modi on allegations of his involvement in the 2002 riots. In its final report submitted to the metropolitan court, the SIT has filed a closure summary against Modi and 62 others accused by Zakia Jafri, widow of slain Congress MP Ehsan Jafri.

The SC had asked SIT to probe Jafris allegation that the Gulbarg Society massacre in which 67 people were killed, was the result of a larger conspiracy. But the probe agency, headed by former CBI chief R K Raghavan, concluded it could not find any prosecutable evidence against the accused.

This effectively means that if the government was not involved, then someone else was. Why has that angle not been investigated? Will the Modi government and the honourable Supreme Court order a probe, for the report does mention that people were burnt alive? How did it happen? Or did it not happen? Did Gulberg Society just disappear? There has to be other “prosecutable evidence”. Whose job is it to find out – the victims, the NGOs or the intelligence agencies?

On what basis is the government gloating? This shows the utter lack of any ethics. I am not big on the politics of remorse and of demanding apologies, for it is the easy way out. However, will Narendra Modi even consider stepping down as chief minister?

The ‘dirty’ trick:

I am appalled that anyone would find the High Court order an indictment of the Modi government. If you read between the lines, it is a wholly disruptive document that merely raps the CM on the knuckles and prophesises a worse scenario by the victims:

"Even if we for the sake of argument accept the defence of the State that the cause of riot was the general reaction from the incident of Sabarmati Express, the failure on part of the police intelligence to gather such general reaction (after the Godhra train burning incident) in time and to take appropriate timely action definitely come within expression 'negligence of the State'. Similarly, the fact remain that the anarchy continued unabated for days ... The state cannot shirk from its responsibilities."

I would like to know why the court is using a hypothetical line of reasoning. This gives the state the necessary ammunition to further play the aggrieved party. One has seen this pussy-footing even by so-called liberal commentators; it is as though they are trying to justify it in a roundabout way. Why were senior police officers transferred? Why is no one paying attention to the reports on the Godhra train burning U.C.Banerji report? Unless this aspect continues to loom over the head of the Gujarat riots, no conclusive action and indictment will be possible. The action-reaction theory will be replayed in every single forum from now on.

Why go that far. It is embedded in the High Court judgment itself.

"The policy of the state government taken in defence is one of evading the constitutional responsibility and will bring anarchy in the society, and thus, is detrimental to the establishment of the principles and the tenets of our Constitution.”

This sounds good. But, it puts the onus on the citizens that if the state government evades responsibility there will be anarchy. It implies that the people are an unruly lot who will go on a rampage, maybe even burn their own buildings, only because the establishment was fiddling and dithering.

There is also an undue emphasis on “destruction of more than 500 places of religious worship throughout the state belonging only to the one religious community". Does the court not know the name of that community? Can it not clearly state M-U-S-L-I-M?

Worse is to come:

“The court also said that the policy would give a wrong signal to the citizens that religious places should take up arms in their own hand because in the event of destruction of those places, no financial help would come from government."

This is disgusting, and it is being hailed as a great verdict? The court is not rapping the government but clearing the decks for it. It is saying that if the government does not shell out some loose change, then those blokes will get the guns and the bombs and let loose terror.

There is much forked-tongue talk:

"It will also encourage the religious bigots to destroy religious and other places of worship of the economically weaker section for the purpose of establishing their superiority over the others.”

Now the tone becomes sadistic. It assumes that there is a superior narrative. That is the reason I have maintained time and again that we must not make Modi into another Hitler; it just buffers the idea of protecting a superior race. We know who the economically weaker section is here. But economics is one step of proving other kinds of dominance, of ancestry and heritage, and the baggage of alignment by default with colonisers.

The NGO attitude is superficial:

“This judgement surely comes as a relief to the victims, survivors and for those fighting for justice and for those who cherish the secular fabric and the diversity of our country and wish to preserve it."

The heroes:

In the next few days, we will have a whole gallery of them. For now, Narendra Modi – the perennial hero, even when villain. The court – for acting as stern school master passing on a toffee as reward. The SIT – for apparently not falling for the bait. Activists – for believing that ‘justice has prevailed’ but leaving enough room for gathering more moss. Zakia Jafri –for standing tenaciously and fighting the system. Unfortunately, she is being made a hero because people supporting her only like to fight the heroic war.

This war was lost when the riots took place. Every fight after that is just a skirmish to cover the debris.

(c) Farzana Versey

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Published in Countercurrents

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Also from the archives:

Modi fast 'undo' death:Gujarat's shame
Godhra verdict and selective amnesia


Laundering News

Sab ki dhulai” is becoming such a drag when it is by a sponsored website, which will most certainly have its own agenda. “You watch! We’re Watching!” is the purpose of Newslaundry. The name itself suggests that the people involved are looking for dirty linen.

This is a wonderful marketing opportunity at a time when news is not too different from reality shows and newsmakers are feted by the ‘objective’ media. It might, in fact, push people into keeping a keen eye on various channels and papers, increasing TRPs and circulation, which will result in more ad revenue that will in turn percolate to the launderers as the searches will all be tagged to ‘expose’ the makers of such news.

Now, it is great to keep tabs on the news – whether in print, television or the internet. Some of us have been doing it quite consistently. So, what is new about this? Can a media group sit in judgment over others of its ilk? Isn’t there a huge outcry when there is talk about any sort of censorship? Will it try to suppress a story with consistent onslaught or will there be a tacit understanding between the ‘exposers’ and the exposed that controversial stories could gain more notoriety and, therefore, more popularity? It might end up further encouraging a personality cult.

Besides, there have been earlier attempts at introducing the ombudsman, but we know that such impartiality is limited to merely listening to complaints. What happens to instances of front page stories committing huge errors? You see an ‘errata’ or a short apology in a corner of the inside pages. It often goes unnoticed. With newspapers having web editions, there is already some smart shuffling of sentences, so a story can not only get updated but altered.

One should wait and see how things unfold. But, I see it as another channel that wants to act as gatekeeper. Not much different from other sources of news that do so already.

After the 2G scam verdict, Times Now’s Arnab Goswami kept repeating how they had first broken the story, how they first got there, all the while showing the main characters getting in and out of cars. It was amusing that there were several microphones of other channels in full view. In fact, the reporter at the site spoke about how the corridor was packed with media persons. Just how did Times Now get the story first, then?

And, how important is it when all that happens is heroes change within a day? That’s the lifespan.

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Brand battles are quite well-known, but to see two newspapers slug it out is quite disgusting. I am particularly disappointed with the manner in which The Hindu conducted itself. In one TV campaign young people are asked general knowledge questions and they don’t have the answers; they are then asked about Bollywood stars and they respond immediately.

This is a dig at The Times of India’s Page 3 culture. I find it quite insulting to the youth, the same segment that The Hindu would also want to cater to and probably does. The TOI’s problems are not with its Page 3, but how it deals with news. If we talk about the glossy and gossipy stuff, then it really does not matter whether one is discussing Bollywood stars and their trivia or of literary greats, which The Hindu is probably more comfortable doing.

The ad campaign itself shows that it is playing the game the TOI way instead of treating it with disdain that it purportedly feels. If you think something is way below your level, then you don’t have to crawl to watch it.

The Times has reached ten cities in Kerala and it put up an ad about how people were wondering why they had not reached the most literate state. Sure. It isn’t that it has discovered its literacy now; it has seen a market. This market is not about merely making money – although the tourism industry there is huge – but extending its reach.

It’s really like seeing the paper in every household, at kiosks, at traffic signals. This is brand visibility. The paper is the sideshow. Times of India will soon be sponsoring kathakali shows; perhaps it will start an initiative to involve children in some education programme; there is Malayalam cinema, literature and food.

And with so much happening, there is bound to be noise and stains. Here, Newslaundry will step in with a detergent that will wash nothing but create little bubbles in which you can watch the dirty linen grow before your eyes.


Kingmaker Robert Vadra?

Should Robert Vadra join politics? It is the sort of question one asks at the dinner table if you are awfully fond of your relatives. However, it has become news. This is not the first time that Priyanka Gandhi’s husband has campaigned for the Congress.

There are two factors here:
  • The Congress Party wants to act obsequious, so anything remotely connected with the family will be wooed.
  • The Opposition sees this as an opportunity to bait.

Let us get a few fundamentals out of the way. Spouses, siblings and even special friends campaign during elections. There is always a trusted group. Atal Behari Vajpayee had his adopted family; L.K.Advani has his daughter; and almost all the ‘maharajahs’ have family members involved. Elections are about immediate and extended families.

Robert Vadra had to make a sacrifice when he married. He broke ties with his own family. Is he looking for some returns? This is what he said:

“I am here for my brother-in-law. For me politics will come if I think I can make a difference for the people, only when I can feel I can focus and I can give my best and full attention for the development of the people. I am totally enjoying what I am doing right now. The family I married into is in politics. It's something I cannot run away from. When the time is right, if it is what is required at that time may be yes but my focus is on my work right now.”

Priyanka said he was misquoted and he is happy with his “vyaapar” (business). The news clip immediately cut to the portion where he did mention that if people wanted he would join politics. Is it unusual? Not quite. He knows that Indians like package deals. We do not consider nepotism bad; it is our birthright. We assume that experience rubs off on those in one family. He used the words “cannot run away from” where he was trying to convey a sense of responsibility. He is also seen as a son of the Gandhis, for he is there on every occasion, especially on death anniversaries, seated in white kurta pyjama to share the moment.

There will be sniggers over this comment:

“Right now it is Rahul's time, Priyanka's time will also come.” 

It is a smart one. That Priyanka has chosen to play homemaker earns him brownie points. It means that while supportive of her aspirations, he is also in control. Her “time will also come” sends out a nice patriarchal promise to a patriarchal society that the lady they think should play an active role might do so in the future, so support her brother now.

Whether as asset or as baggage Robert Vadra will work in favour of Rahul Gandhi. In one scenario, he will be the strong backdrop; in the other, the guy who makes Rahul look so good and correct that he just cannot fail.

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End note:

Rahul Gandhi says that unlike others he has no ambition of being Prime Minister. It is time the Congress initiated him in a real role with some other portfolio. The grassroots stuff is good, but he cannot be walking around all the time. He should put himself to test, if it is the language of politics he wants to talk.


Sunday ka Funda

It is better to sit alone than in company with the bad; and it is, better still to sit with the good than alone. It is better to speak to a seeker of knowledge than to remain silent; but silence is better than idle words.

- Prophet Mohammed

Eid-e-Milad, I must confess, was never a date on my calendar. It did not have the preamble of Ramzan Eid or Bakri Eid. It was quiet. I thought those who were deeply religious were introspecting about the Prophet's life. It was one way to celebrate a birthday.

I was surprised to read that it has become a huge commercial enterprise. Business thrives in the gullies selling badges, buntings, flags, tassels. And Muslims talk about how idolatory is against the faith. What is this, then?

Most Arabs do not celebrate their own birthdays. It is a way of not deifying one's existence. But, then, all prayers also deify. And, again, I confess that some of the naats are beautiful. For, it goes beyond obeisance. It is suffusing of oneself in a larger Self.

I do not understand the language of this one. It is probably not even great. But I like the slow rhythm, the lack of self-conscioues rendition one has become accustomed to.


Mani and Hafiz: Truth or Bare?

I understand that when a politician is on a private visit to a country, he does not speak on behalf of the country. Mani Shankar Aiyar, by virtue of being a former diplomat based in Pakistan, is knowledgeable about the country. It seems that he has lost touch with it, and even his home country.

Sitting on a panel discussion in a studio in Islamabad, he was confronted by Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed through a phone link:

"Giving India MFN-status is not correct in any manner because there are already big problems that haven't been resolved, including the Kashmir issue. At this moment, the dams being made by India will create a crisis in Pakistan."

This is the man considered the mastermind behind the Mumbai 2008 attacks. His position would not be much different.

It is Aiyar's comment that is typically on a limb:

"There are some persons like Hafiz Saeed in our country who do not want things to move forward but thankfully the ordinary people want our ties to improve. We can improve our relations irrespective of what his (Saeed's) opinion is. We want him to be caught and taken to a terrorism court."

By getting into this same-same maze, he is in effect implying that the Hafiz prototypes in India are against any ties with Pakistan.

We do have a consolidated saffron terror in place, but it is essentially and rather tragically targetting people within the country.

It is pertinent that a couple of days prior to this studio peace, a piece of news which has much to do with Hafiz Saeed went largely unnoticed. The amicus curiae, advocate Raju Ramachandran, told the Supreme Court that Ajmal Kasab was not part of a larger conspiracy for waging war against the nation.

As reported:

'Maintaining that the prosecution has failed to prove the case against him beyond doubts, he told he bench that his right against self-incrimination as well as his right to get himself adequately represented by a counsel to defend himself in the case have been violated during the trial.'

Kasab said he was brainwashed like a "robot".   

What would Mr. Aiyer's position be? Does he believe that brainwashing takes place only in the area of terror? This is where we need to look at the scenario holistically.

Saeed's opinion is not an isolated one and neither is it restricted in both countries to fringe elements.

There are two crucial segments.

1. The overtly nationalist middle class that believes that an enemy gives credence to identity.

2. Those who take what appears to be a cynical view that

a) the terror industry is over-rated
b) peace through confidence building measures does not do away with insecurity. These placebos cannot and are not meant to address diplomatic issues.

Almost all politicians have spoken about such initiatives and gestures. Does anything tangible come out of it?

In the Islamabad studio, it was Hafiz Saeed who spoke honestly. Mani Shankar Aiyar is being hailed for his brave move in confronting him, when he was just aiming aimless darts.

Perhaps he might like to see the large queues outside the High Commissions in India and Pakistan to understand how difficult such 'private' visits are for those he is claiming to speak on behalf of.