Doing me...

“Ma’am, we would like to do an interview.”


“Just you, y’know, stuff.”

“Have you read the book?”


“Seen it?”

“Yeah. Cover looks cool.”

“So what will you ask me?”

“Stuff about your likes and things.”

“Hmm…I don’t have any likes and dislikes.”

“Aww, c’mon…if you are free we will send a photographer for a shoot tomorrow at your place.”

“What does a photo-shoot have to do with this book?”

“Oh, just stuff. Ambience, etc.”

Sure. I was getting the hang of it. Everybody I spoke to, including the serious types, told me I should go ahead.

I imagined myself curled on the sofa in the living room with the Indian flag in the background, holding a tasbeeh (prayer beads) in my hand while I gazed at a picture of the crescent and moon as a model airplane sat at a table beside me – all to convey the title of the book.

I have refused to give many interviews, some of the nature above. Even at the launch I was told a girl wanted to talk to me about the Partition. “But,” I told the person organising it, “there are people, I cannot just hole myself away.”

“It will take only five minutes.”

“Five minutes to discuss the Partition?”

Then I was told to name five books on the subject. I said not now. Fine, I was branded arrogant.

It really isn’t about arrogance, but not playing just about any game you are expected to.

One interview I did give, a fairly long one; it wasn’t carried. Wish the writer had checked with the publication about how ‘legit’ I am among certain media people!

I gave one more, this to a small web portal. The reason? It was new, the intent seemed right. I forgot all about it till I was told yesterday. It appeared in August and they have used the picture from this blog! Thankfully, they have removed the leopard eyes; if only someone had thought of taking out the half face too.

Talking of conducting interviews, I recall how much time one spent. Before the first big solo interview I did, the editor had asked me to prepare a questionnaire. I did. 60.

“How much time do you think he has?”

“As much time as it needs to finish these,” I said.

It was not meant to be cocky. If you want to probe a mind, discover something, then you have to give it time. He did. Of course, I did not stick to that structured questionnaire. And, yes, I did not know a darn thing about him. There were no search engines. I just called up several people to find out, read a bit – all this in a few hours and between completing another piece. This is how most of us worked.

I have been accused of being too hands-on, that I should delegate transcription and research to someone. I don’t know. Maybe it is possessiveness; maybe it is just replaying and rediscovering new things along the way.

Why am I talking so much about this today? A review has appeared. (I would not have known but for well-wishers who sent me the link. Thank you…)

Now, about reviews let me tell you about the one in a prominent publication. It was sent through a booktracking agency. As I read the words, they sounded familiar. I was shocked to realise that it was completely plagiarised from another review. With one original line - it said you should not buy the book. It would have been fair enough except that the full review preceding it was very positive!

A few days later, I clicked on the link and, poof, it was gone. Caught out.

This is intriguing. Why would any writer do such a thing? It wasn’t like s/he was getting a scoop, or it was a news story or something topical. It isn’t about a must-write-about thing.

Another point: When people say you are making generalisations, would they be kind enough to write out the words instead of adding dots?

I was telling this to someone and she said, “Enjoy it. This adds to the enigma.”

And here I thought enigma was a lonely hunter…

- - -

If you want to read the interview and the review, just click on the words. The latter gives quite a peek into the ‘characters’.

Is Osama on your friend's list?

What is going on?

Alleged Indian Mujahideen operative Subhan Qureshi alias Tauqeer’s friend is none other than al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, if one goes by his profile on a social networking website…Interestingly, Osama wrote all the entries in Hindi.

Osama is doing social networking now? Let us not take such jokes too far. Would Osama write, “Tauqir bhai, Sukhpal ko ishara kar dena ki RDX pahunch gya hai. Kal Amritsar se train mein rakhwa denge’’?

Here is more from TOI:

Tauqeer’s profile says his ideal match is “Osama ka attack”, while his idea of a perfect first date is “India ka Laden’’. The column, five things he cannot live without, include “poora India khatam’’; the profile goes on to say that in my bedroom, you will find “sirf serial bombs.’’

In his profile Tauqeer writes, “India ki tabahi sirf ek mahine mein.’’ The Englishspeaking Tauqeer also says he is on the networking site for activity partners. About his passion, the profile says, “next blast Bangalore main’’; in the sports column, the profile says, “lakhon logon ki jaan mere haath mein’’.

Another scrap entry is on Safdar Nagori, former national general secretary of SIMI, which says, “Nagori bhai jaan he sehmet hai is faisle se.” The third, written on September 20, says, “Thoda intezaar kar le, poori Delhi police hamari talash mein hai’’, while the next scrap states, “agla blast Bangalore main karenge’’.

Is this a report? Terrorists are openly revealing their plans? They are looking for partners in crime? This does not qualify as a newspaper report. Let us not take these jokes too far.

Osama is mentioned often in people’s writings or even as banter. People are called Islamists and jihadis, without anyone knowing what these terms mean.

It has become a farce.

What is not is actual tragedy striking.

It was Black Saturday all over again. Exactly two weeks after serial blasts ripped through the capital, it was hit by a low-intensity crude bomb, which went off on Saturday afternoon in the crowded Sarai Market near Aulia Masjid in south Delhi’s Mehrauli area. A nine-year-old boy, who innocently picked up a black polythene bag containing a tiffin box bomb, was killed on the spot as it exploded in his face. Twenty-five people were injured.

I do not want to be in a situation and say, oh no, one more bomb blast…yawn.

Obviously these guys are sending messages prior to hitting. They are challenging the police force, the political parties, the government. And now the cops are saying that this is not the work of the Indian Mujahideen or SIMI. Why? Because they did not get one of those typical emails? Are they waiting to look in their inbox before they realise what will happen next?

There is a limit to electoral one-upmanship.

Badal jaaye agar maali...

...chaman hota nahin khaali...

Mahendra Kapoor is dead. The obits talk about his patriotic songs. For me that would mean as important as referring to Manoj Kumar as Mr. Bharat.

I did not like his Mere desh ki dharti numbers, in fact. They were loud, very Daler Mehdi-Sukhwinder-ish. I know these are ‘in’ voices, together with that other guy, Kailash Kher, and they all come under the blanket of Sufi sangeet.

Mahendra Kapoor could have been a good ghazal voice, but the Rafi hangover was far too much. And when he did veer away, as in Nikaah, he sounded breathless and not in a Talat Mehmood way. Listen to “Dil ki yeh arzoo thi” from that film and you will know what I mean. But then Salma Agha did not deserve better. I would stuff Himesh Reshamiyya up her nose.

I am afraid this is not sounding like a tribute. And there is no compulsion for me to do so. But everytime I encounter some association with old Hindi film songs, I do start thinking of the ones I have heard. They fact they have stayed does convey the power of everyone involvd in its creation.

While “Chalo eik baar phir se” from Gumraah would definitely rate very high, I found “Aadha hai Chandrama” from Navrang surprisingly peppy and controlled. Who would imagine Mahendra Kapoor singing for a dance number, that too with Gopi Krishna?

However, I am putting up something else here. For its simplicity, flawless enunciation…the silken plea of “meri zindagi mein apani, chaahat ka rang bhar do”…

meri jaan tum pe sadake, ehsaan itna kar do

Movie: Sawan Ki Ghata
Singer(s): Asha Bhonsle, Mahendra Kapoor
Music Director: O P Nayyar
Lyricist: S H Bihari


His and Hers

She says


I just thought we had had enough of these political flirtations and here comes Manmohan Singh giving love bytes to George Bush.

“So, Mr President, this may be my last visit to you during your presidency, and let me say that thank you very much. The people of India deeply love you.”

I honestly do not understand how these politicians decide for the whole country.

“Mr President, I know how busy you are with problems relating to the management of the financial crisis. That despite all the enormous pressures on your time you have found it possible to receive me is something I deeply appreciate, deeply value.”

As though he does not eat and drink and walk his dog because of the financial crisis. This is just so Indian...hum naacheez ke liye waqt nikaala and blah.

“In the last four-and-a-half years that I have been prime minister, I have been the recipient of your generosity, your affection, your friendship. It means a lot to me and to the people of India. And when the history is written, I think it will be recorded that President George W Bush played a historic role in bringing our two democracies closer to each other.”

When did all this happen? Does getting the nuclear deal going bring democracies closer? When Bush’s history is written India will get a small mention. And if our PM has been the recipient of all this affection and friendship then he should stop there. No need to bring the people of India in.

Having said that and replayed the quotes for you, it is time to analyse this picture. The signals could well be different.

Analyse this:

Bush seems overwhelmed, he is facing down and from the way his shoulders and arm are positioned he is clearly taking this seriously, almost desperately.

Now Manmohan Singh is a different player. He has a smile on his face, but observe his hands. Neither is completely touching Bush; one is bent towards his back – a reluctant gesture with the watch clearly visible. Which means the loyalty is timed.

The other hand appears to be extended elsewhere. It could mean Singh is ready for the next person in line.

Of course, you will say that a photograph is clicked in a split-second and this could have been taken just before Singh had wrapped his arms around Bush. But that would apply to Bush as well.

And a lot happens in split seconds. A lot.

Height of audacity:

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi wants those who ‘spread lies’ about the people behind the train carnage to apologise to the people of his state.


Que Sarah, Sarah

There has been sickeningly cloying reportage about the Sarah Palin and Asif Ali Zardari meeting. Even serious commentators are making an issue of it, quite forgetting that their own PM Yusuf Reza Gilani did a boob press on one of their leaders.

So what did Zardari do and why is he getting so much mileage? He called her gorgeous and added, “Now I know why the whole of America is crazy about you.”

Someone should ensure that this fellow gets lockjaw. Because this was a diplomatic boo-boo. He cannot speak for the whole of America, that too so close to the elections when anything can happen.

The unfortunate thing about Sarah is that she has a glamorous background. Ignore her politics for the moment, politics that stink, there is far too much sexist bias against her, and not unusually from feminists themselves.

Ms. Palin did not need a makeover, she came made-over. What about the rest who get all dolled up for the elections? What about the several changes in hairstyle and clothes that Hillary Clinton went through?

Did not Madeleine Albright once say that there was nothing that makeup could not fix?

What about German Chancellor Angela Merkel revealing that deep and dangerous cleavage?

Why must the political arena be left out from the way consent is manufactured and complete societies become guinea pigs?

In this Zardari-Palin cootchie-coo, what has been conveniently not highlighted is Information Minister Sherry Rehman’s words, “And how does one keep looking that good when one is that busy?”

How many people ask Obama how he can manage to be so fit? Did politicians talk about Bill Clinton’s always-fresh charm?

Not to be left behind, we had one report saying that “Palin left Manmohan Singh speechless, blushing”.

Nothing in the story reveals that.

Why would there be unease? What is going on? When we are not behaving like slaves of some woman from Alaska who may have qualities other than her looks, we are being patronising.

Look at this rubbish:

K P Nayar, the Chief Diplomatic Editor of the Telegraph, who is based in Washington D C for more than two decades, said: "It is in our own interest, it is Important to cultivate her, this is the time to cultivate her because until last year, she didn't have a passport. Last year, was the first time she acquired the passport. Yesterday, for the first time, she met the head of a government or the head of a state. So, she would be grateful that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave her some advice, treated her with respect, because the rest of the United States, and much of the world, is treating her with contempt -- that she is the greenhorn, the kind of person who should be a heartbeat away from the US presidency. We should cultivate people who matter in the US politics. We should not make a value judgment."

So we must respect people only if they have a passport? Sure, she had not met any head of state or government earlier, but what is this about Singh giving her advice and treating her with respect? Mr. Nayar, even after over 2 decades, you sound like a greenhorn yourself. What did you imagine – that the Indian PM would show contempt towards her? Again, such blanket pronouncements about how the world is treating her. It would be better if we looked inside our own house and see the contempt people show towards Sonia Gandhi.

Has Zardari shown contempt? No, he was being himself. A complete fruitcake. So was Sherry Rehman who, incidentally, belongs to the same league as Sarah.

End note

When an official aide to Zardari requested the two leaders to keep shaking hands for the benefit of the cameras, he told Palin, “If he is insisting, I might hug”.

Aw, the fellow thinks he is being a charmer. Yasser Arafat went ahead and embraced Indira Gandhi several years ago and no aide insisted.


Up mine?

Nooo… have been auto-suggesting this for a few days now. No writing about how I started writing this blog three years ago on this day. No senti stuff. Just go on as though nothing has happened. No one notices. Really.

But what to do? Even Khomeini was born on this day 106 years ago.

Now, you can read what you want about the Ayatollah, but no one will tell you a thing about me.

So, here’s to me, each applies at different times:

When you want to tear your hair

When you think I am half-way there

When I am doing something right

And finally:

“I love talking about nothing. It is the only thing I know anything about.”
- Oscar Wilde

Why are Indian Islamic scholars getting all hot and bothered?

In the email sent out on September 13 minutes before bombs exploded through New Delhi, the Indian Mujahideen quoted two verses from the Quran. The verses, say Islamic scholars, had been pulled out of context and misinterpreted.

As though these maulanas follow the verses when they issue fatwas on women raped by their fathers-in-law or make stupid pronouncements. They too are interpreting it to suit their immediate ‘concerns’, which are none of their business, anyway.

Here go the two quotes used by the IM group:

“(O you who believe) when you encounter (in fight) those who disbelieve, strike their necks first, till when you have completely massacred and wounded many of them, then bind them firmly (taking them as captives). Thereafter is the time, either for generosity or a ransom until the war lays down its burden. (Qur’an 47:4).’’

The mullahs say:

“Muslims were boycotted for three years by non-Muslims in Mecca. No one would trade with them, there was no permission for namaz, they were beaten up, harassed and humiliated. So there was an order to leave Mecca. But even after reaching Madinah, the non-Muslims continued troubling the Muslims and attacking them. It was during this period that this verse was revealed. This verse instructed Muslims to fight with those who came to attack them.’’

Okay, so the IM group has mentioned how Muslims are harassed, beaten up etc and etc. There has been nasty demagogue talk about asking Mossies to leave. Hey, it happened right here on this humble blog to this humble writer, who is not even Mossie enough.

The other verse refers to the IM use of “Allah is the best of those who plot a plan”. According to Maulana speak, this is in reference to Allah planning an easy passage for the Prophet whose house was under surveillance and the enemies of Islam were plotting his downfall.

So, the IM outfit believes many Muslim houses are under surveillance and there are groups of people plotting their downfall.

The Indian Mujahideen is seeking some literary inspiration. They could have quoted from Shakespeare or Kafka. These mullahs will use and twist the Quran when they feel like it. So just chill and stop screaming about this misinterpretation nonsense.

If you want to sound secular and nice, just go for iftaar to the house of a certain famous person (who will be mouthing the same clichés as you do)…oops, does she have a house?

The army's new blast: The 'Haryana Hurricane'

Today, the Indian Army has got a “big catch”.

By now most people know that armymen took to me like…well, fish to worm. This time they are upfront and state that Kapil Dev will act as a mascot. But we haven’t won a World Cup test series since 1983. We have not quite produced a bowler like him. And people may have joined cricket after watching him play, but it is unlikely that they will join the army because of him. Unless the youngsters are given inducements like endorsements, visibility on TV channels.

His new rank will be of an “honorary Lt-Col” and the Army Chief will take time off his busy schedule to pin the Ashoka Lion and star on Kapil’s shoulders. Let me add a little about what he will be doing:

Legendary cricketer Kapil Dev will be joining the Territorial Army, the part-time citizen’s force which functions as a ‘vital adjunct’ to the regular army… In the event of national emergencies, they may be asked to become full-time personnel to act in a supporting role to regular army units.

In my article that got a few armymen very cross with me – Rot in the Indian Army – I had asked certain questions when Vivek Oberoi was asked to volunteer:

Even if the actor gets recruited in one of the non-departmental units that cater for urban requirements, he will have to train on weekends throughout the year. Will the Army, that tom-toms its discipline, make exceptions? And if they need recruits why can they not tap the thousands of educated unemployed in the country?

My questions remain. There have been quite a few national emergencies since then. Where was the actor? Busy doing his “Ae Ganpat” act, or seeking obsequious apologies from Salman Khan at public functions, or growing his hair to look like Johnny Depp on a bad Johnny Depp hair and everything else day? Has there been one word from either him or the army about what role he would play/has played?

Therefore, the slightly bitter pill bit that I wrote wasn’t all that off, was it?

I just feel sorry that the real armymen who go through all the struggle during real battles or protect our nation are not considered worthy enough to be role models. But then, they aren’t considered worthy enough for a good enough pay packet.

Wouldn’t it be better to keep them in fine fettle instead of waiting to give them a gun salute, covering their caskets with a tricolour and then awarding them a medal, which their tearful widows and mothers have to collect?

You can flaunt as many mascots as you want, but the public is looking at how the ‘game’ is played.

PS: Cricketers are now taking part in a dance show with glamorous partners. Can the Army beat that?


Two mannequins

I find this picture interesting because the human appears more plastic than the mannequin, which is better dressed and has some emotion visible on the face.

He cannot read, but his eyes seem awake to words and the world; he cannot speak, but his mouth is puckered to utter something; he has no mind, but how thoughtful he looks.

Sometimes, human beings become manufactured entities. No comic relief is as tragic as a person unknowingly mimicking a mannequin.

- - -

The last poll results:

After the recent bomb blasts, who do you suspect?

Jihadis from outside - 3 (25%), Local militant groups - 8 (66%), ISI - 3 (25%), Our political parties - 3 (25%), No comments - 1 (8%)


The cat's cry

I heard a cat cry. Plaintive notes. Like a violin’s scream. It was almost dawn. The death of night. I heard a cat cry. It sounded like any of us.

When I was young I would cringe with fear. Like a balled-up kitten. Like wool. A string would stretch. Its lint would fall. The wool too wept.

I did not see that cat for days. Months.

Then one day it was on the ledge of the parapet in the building where I lived. Its paws waiting to jump. It saw me. Our eyes met. Hers green like grass. Mine brown like mud. They rolled into each other’s sockets.

Our tears became one.

Marriott, Islamabad - memories in the mayhem

I was hesitant to call. She is a foreigner living in Islamabad. The first thing she asked was, “You remember Marriott?”

“Of course, I do.”

“It is burning. I left the city in the afternoon…will return later.”

I never stayed there. The people I spoke to almost always mentioned that it was a place which was more watched than many others. I did not want to ruin my stay. As it turned out, you get watched anyway.

There used to be a smile in her voice whenever we talked about the Marriott because I would tell her about the meetings I had there. She was particularly amused when I had hopped into a jeep with a guy from the Tablighi Jamaat.

I remember that parking lot so well and how everyone looked at his jeep with wonder; he had recreated it to look old and battered. What an irony that had it been parked there on September 20, it would not stand out. It would be as stripped off colour as any others destroyed in the blasts.

- - -

Saturday’s bomb blast reports have already mentioned how a suicide bomber rammed into the gate and blew up 1000 kg explosives that have killed about 60 people and injured many, many others.

However, I find some statements in Dawn to be more than reports.

The Marriot Hotel has been popular among the foreigners visiting Islamabad and had been previously targeted by terrorists.

Pakistan, like India, has gone through too many of these ‘incidents’. And terrorists always look for hot spots. Whenever I visited there were always many more locals in the restaurants than foreigners. Unless there was some event; then people from news channels would invariably position themselves at the hotel. It is the only five-star property that is centrally-located.

The attack came a few hours after the newly elected president Asif Ali Zardari made his first address to the joint session of the parliaments amid tight security. The president said in his address that he would not allow Pakistan’s territory to use for terrorist activities.

Every politician says it and terrorists know they will say it. They do not wait for such sound bytes. Incidentally, Zardari’s appeal to curtail presidential powers is a huge gimmick. Even if it is carried out – or ‘revisited’, as he said – it will send out the signal that he is not after power. What he really means is that he does not want to take too much responsibility. Not at this juncture when the country has to deal with strife in the Northern areas as well as the parking of American troops.

The Marriott Hotel is located near government buildings, including President House, Parliament building, Prime Minister House, and right opposite to the Sindh House and judicial colony.

If suicide bombers want to attack these hallowed institutions they can aim their explosives there. There should be no implication that this is a blow to democracy, for sure. It is not. There were blasts during Musharraf’s regime, too.

At that time some people had implied that it was staged.

Let us wait for the verdict now.

And to see what plans the United States of America has for Pakistan.

- - -

Another time, another memory

Whenever I think of the coffee shop there, Nadia, one meeting will always make me wonder about how quirkiness can lead to amazing insights.

I had wanted to probe his mind and I suspect he was doing the same. We shared a curiosity about everything. As we sipped tea and conversation flowed, one would not have imagined this was only our second meeting. He told me about his life – complex, layered.

We had got so comfortable that I suggested an experiment – there was a long-stemmed rose at the centre of the table. I told him that we should write something impromptu about it. Mine was a poem; his was an interesting theory on physics.

This was not an Indian and a Pakistani, just two people sharing their views about a rose that could have grown and thrived and withered anywhere.


Shooting terrorists and other stories

They are quick – our cops. In less than 30 minutes of dishum-dishum encounter, two terrorists and one cop were killed. The headline says the cop was “martyred”. I can imagine those jihadis getting irritated that their shaheed idea is now being taken over by those who go after them. Did anyone go after them?
Here is a part of the report:
It lasted for less than half an hour, and a total of 33 shots—25 by the cops, eight by terrorists—were exchanged. After a fierce shootout in Jamia Nagar area, the Delhi police killed two terrorists, including key SIMI operative Bashir alias Atiq, who allegedly played a crucial role in the September 13 Delhi blasts. But it also lost a gallant officer, inspector Mohan Chand Sharma of the special cell.
According to police sources, sub-inspector Dharmendra then went to the place, posing as a salesman. After seeing suspicious characters who told him to go away, he gave a missed call to Sharma, who was standing downstairs with his team.
Note: the terrorists only fired eight rounds. They opened the door to a salesman. What was he trying to sell? Did they buy anything? Did they not notice him looking at them carefully? Did all the “suspicious characters” stand at the door to welcome him?

This Atiq is suddenly being touted as a “mastermind”. It is also emphasised that he had “strong Delhi links since he studied at Jamia Milia Islamia”. Huh? All of you whose alma mater is in the capital are now suspects. Of course, it is sad that software engineers are losing out to whatever they teach at the Jamia.
Now for more news:
As early as July 2006, Mumbai police officer Daya Nayak had alerted the state government in writing about the activities of Atiq alias Bashir.
Nayak, who is under suspension, had written a confidential letter to the state on July 24, 2006, in which he had mentioned the activities of Bashir and his involvement in several blasts across the country. Nayak said Bashir was an expert in making timer bombs. When contacted, Nayak declined comment.
Over two years and this fellow was roaming free? And suddenly he gives his game away to a salesman, and it wasn’t even a Miss Chamko?

If Bashir was such an expert at making timer bombs – and they say he was involved in the earlier blasts too – then why did those bombs in Surat not even go phuss?

We have had enough of these soap operas where some cop gets killed (always of inspector rank, never higher) and we ‘solve’ these cases.

No one asks the tough question: What have our intelligence agencies been doing even if they have prior information?

And here we have the real smarties:
Police have learnt that 7/11 serial blasts accused Ehtesham Siddiqui, a former general-secretary of the Maharashtra unit of SIMI, lodged in Arthur Road jail since 2006, has used the time to compile a handbook on the interrogation techniques of the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS). The book in Gujarati is titled. ‘How to prevent yourself from police interrogation’.

This guy made notes in prison, smuggled it out of jail and it came out as a handbook that became a bestseller among SIMI activists! The police, of course, discovered it now…although they know all about SIMI and the organisation is banned.

Deir aaye durust aaye.

Ironies of India


It’s raining good news for Mumbaikars—with all the lakes touching the overflow mark, the civic body is confident that there will be enough water to supply to the city for more than a year.


Thousands of people on Friday fled their homes to safety as the Mahanadi river flooded five coastal districts in Orissa. Six people have died so far and panic migration continued following a state government warning that water the level could rise further.

Official reports said the floods have affected 5 lakh people in 2,606 villages and nine towns in 15 districts. Over 6,000 houses have collapsed. The government said around 27,000 people have been evacuated. More than 60 free kitchens are providing food.


Trivial pursuit - 6

The catfish has over 27,000 taste buds.

Amazing…and all this so it can taste worms and the occasional leftover bits of liver and flakes thrown at it? And then we applaud nature. Forget the sunrise and sunset and the ocean tides…say wow, look at those taste buds. Just throw me a worm and I can give you 27,000 interpretations of it. Humans are of course lower down in the evolutionary scale –we have only 10,000 of those buds tickling our tongues.

What do we do with those? I only know sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, hot, cold, rancid, and tasteless, like water and chewing gum that has been chewed into a hard ball.

All those connoisseurs will go sniffing at the wine in the glass, the one with a small opening so that the aroma does not escape, then take a sip, roll it on their tongue (where else will they roll it?), then nod their heads and pronounce their verdict. Ah, be careful, hold it by the stem or it will get all warm and fuzzy and ruin the temperature. Damn, the wine did not complain when it was rotting in the barrel.

All right, I have now lost complete track of taste buds. You got Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Thai, Indian, Puerto Rican, French, English, and the rest of the Commonwealth and European Union. You still do not have use for 10,000 taste buds. Even if you try out cockroaches, ants, and other delicacies.

So, I don’t understand why nature has bestowed upon the cat fish all those taste buds. Do they even chew worms and let them rest on the tongue long enough for anything to register?

Heck, it is said that if you and I hold our breath, then apple and onion taste the same.

Now, why would anyone hold their breath for this?

But then if we shut our eyes we can’t tell cat fish from anything large and amphibian. Go ahead, enjoy nature’s bounty. And tell me how it tastes.


Anonymous incorporated

There is some confusion here about anon versus anons. To tell wheat from rice and not to chaff, I shall list out possible names depending on the sort of comments the anonymous people make:

  • FV is a jihadi: Green with ennui
  • Her heart belongs to Pakistan: Dil rue-ba
  • This blog stinks: Skunk
  • Ohh, she is so vain: Pig-on-lipstick
  • You must read Faiz/Neruda/Falooda: Mirza Ghayab
  • You can’t cook, so here’s a recipe: Khan Salmon
  • You keep talking about hair: Zulf fikar bhugto
  • She is such a bitch sometimes: I-am-da-bone
  • Too much sex here: Gees Pot
  • She is after those poor Kashmiri Pandits: Dal-dal Lake
  • It is not cyanide but rat poison: Mickey mouse in diss-ney
  • I am the only one who likes her: Dinosaur

Do elephants have breasts?

Members of European Parliament want TV regulators in the EU to set guidelines which would see the end of anything deemed to portray women as sex objects or reinforce gender stereotypes.

This could potentially mean an end to attractive women advertising perfume.

Such classic adverts as the Diet Coke commercial featuring the bare-chested builder, or Wonderbra’s Hello Boys featuring model Eva Herzigova would have been banned.

I am all for protesting against such stereotypes. But why can attractive women not advertise perfumes? In fact it sends out the message that however good-looking you are you could still do with some fragrance. And the Wonderbra is a product meant for a certain purpose and therefore would require a woman who lives up to it.

If we have problems with these ads, then we ought to have problems with the products themselves.

In India we continue have ads that show women doing the housework. That is far more stereotyping.

Looks do not constitute “artificial roles”. They are an extension of one's own persona. People have been choosing to enhance their appearance for ages. The hair extensions and kohl of today owe it to ancient Egyptians.

If we really wish to object, there are other reasons. The most exploitative are the PETA ads. The new one is to save elephants where the actress Celina Jaitley’s breasts have been boosted digitally. She is shackled in chains and dressed minimally.

According to a report:

Our source, who has worked on the PETA campaign, tells us, "One needs to do these things to attract attention to a glaring issue. We have deliberately done this."

Responding to the jumbo size of her assets, the actress was completely calm when we called her on the telephone. "I was not aware of it, but now that you tell, yes, my breasts do look different. But I have done it for a good cause. I don't think it should be much of an issue," said she.

Of course, it is a good cause. The actress, the organisation, the ad agencies will benefit. And if the grey elephant was the concern here, then she should not have exposed human skin wearing hot pants.

I don’t know how many people will not poach elephants only because of such ads. Who knows, some weird character might go looking for a pachyderm with boobs just like these.


My attempt at 'diplomacy'!

I was meeting this Pakistani diplomat in a high-ceilinged room; he sat behind a large desk. Very suave. He said he would be visiting Mumbai and wanted me to suggest some hotel.

Given that he was an official of some standing, I mentioned the top-end hotels. I told him about the sea view in the old wing of one.

Then he enquired about the private airlines, and I told him.

He replied with a rather surprising, “Are they not too expensive?”

“Yes, they are, but you can buy coupons if you are certain about the dates of travel; then it turns out cheaper,” I said helpfully.

“Oh, and which one do you normally travel by?”

I gave the name. The places to eat and shop.

Happy about my potential as a tourist guide (so what if I will never be brand ambassador), I walked out. I saw him smile, the curve of his lips on one side rising higher than the other. The sort of smile when…ah, never mind.

I recounted this to an Indian diplomat who knew about our meeting. He looked aghast.

“Who told you to talk so much?”

“What do you mean? He wanted to know about my city.”

“Do you imagine you are the only source of information he has? He is a big guy with travel agents who know everything. They know more than they need to.”

“So why did he ask me about airline fares?”

“And you told him about coupons! This is really strange.”

“But the meeting went off well.”

“Yes, and he had a lot of information about you, which is what he wanted. This is their job. I know because we do the same. Have a good trip.”

I did.

PS: He does not feature in the book.

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Results of last poll

What image comes to mind when you think of 9/11?

Terrorists 5 (23%), Muslims 4 (19%), TwinTowers 7 (33%), George Bush 7 (33%), Nothing 1 (4%)