If only holding candles could change things...

I find it strange that people want me to maintain silence when even those who are miles away have been deciding the fate of us Indians.

Getting politicians to resign is the easiest thing; getting them to act is tough.

Have you seen the panel discussions on television? Even Nikhil Wagle and top cop M.N.Singh are nodding their heads at statements made by some socialite. Yeah. “Enough is enough”. I said that in 1993. Tell me what is enough and who is going to decide? I could not then. So, who will now? These people?

I was sent messages and ‘personally invited’ to a candle-light vigil. I refused to go. I said it in so many words. “Not interested.” I am not interested in standing there with melting wax to support victims. (I have never gone on such peacenik missions and never will, although some of the people involved in organising them are indeed genuine.) The victims are dead. They died because of failures at several levels.

Tragedy has been made into a joke – “I left my kids at home to be here”, “I am not having a party”, “I am wearing black”…so?

And people want me to be silent. Why?

I am sorry to bring this up, but the Sea Lounge has been mentioned again. Does anyone ever mention that of the people who are sitting in studios, 99 per cent have not ever done anything on the ground?

Does anyone know where I was during the 1993 riots? Were they even born then? Have they watched slums being bulldozed? Have they visited hospital wards and been confronted with pleas by ‘mental patients’ to take them out? Have they followed up on careless killings of ordinary people that were not due to terrorist attacks and sat with a rape victim as she showed her scars, or an old father as he waited for justice, and followed it up after a year, two years? Have they bothered to keep at the POW case of 1971 as I have, instead of capitalising on Sarabjeet Singh? Have they joined any NGO only because they feel they don’t want to merely use the people there for quotes?

You ask about my commitment?

Why? Because I am not barking into a mike? Because I am not saying with a flourish that the camera should not focus on some people shouting anti-Pak slogans (in the noise no one watching the TV would have even noticed until this was emphasised)? What for? To sound secular? Only because I am not holding a “Muslim man” by the shoulder as he, bearded, skull capped, says in English that he has come to the Gateway of India to tell people that Islam is not the religion of the terrorist and starts quoting chapter 5, surah something? Do they even realise that this looks like another kind of mockery where Muslim man comes to defend his religion?

This qualifies as an important statement?

Why not just distribute copies of the Quran and let people judge?

Why is no one complaining about this sort of media fascism where views are being forced down their throats?

I am not asking anyone to read any holy book. I am not quoting from any holy book. I am not justifying any religion. I am not abusing anyone. I am asking questions that I want to ask.

A friend told me I should not sound defensive. If it comes across as that, it is okay. I will have my say. It does reflect the views of at least some people who cannot express themselves. Or, even if they do, they feel a bond.

Someone even said I could afford not to be afraid. I am not sure how much fear costs, but those who wish to scare me will have to first become fearless themselves.

Did V.P.Singh’s gambles pay off?

The Lonely Punter

by Farzana Versey

Countercurrents, 29 November 2008

He chose the wrong time to die. His timing was often bad. V.P.Singh, former Prime Minister of India, gave up the fight against several ailments that should have killed him 15 years ago on November 27. He was 77.

It was the wrong time because newspapers and the electronic media are covering the horrendous terrorist attacks in Mumbai. VP was not the kind to exit quietly; the Rajput in him cherished a bit of pomp and glory. To his credit, it constituted the superficial aspect, like a garment. It did not as much as scrape his skin, forget enter his soul.

As I scoured a couple of reports, the comments sections threw up the worst invectives. “He was a devil.” “The world will be better without him.” “Thank god he is dead.”

(The complete article has been uploaded on my other blog and is accessible at the website if you click the title link)


Mumbai blasts - the end is not always the end

...and it is time we woke up

Why are the Mumbai blasts being referred to as Mumbai’s 9/11? Even for this we are paying tribute and sucking up to the imperialists who hold the puppet strings of world mayhem.

Why are TV reports referring to the T-shirts of the guys whose pictures have been captured as “designer Versace”? From that distance and with the hazy images how can they be so sure those are designer and not fake? And how important is this to the investigations?

Now here is the real cruncher regarding the captured terrorist Azam Amir Kasav:

Azam who was tight-lipped initially, cracked upon seeing the mutilated body of his colleague and pleaded with the medical staff at Nair to save his life. "I do not want to die," he reportedly said. "Please put me on saline."

This is amazingly bad reporting. A 21-year-old who has the gall to stroll after shooting at the CST station, who signals his colleague after the job is done, is now pleading for his life?

If among the instructions given to them was to "kill till the last breath", he would never behave like this.

There is more:

Azam, who was at Nair hospital for nearly four hours, was taken away by the intelligence agencies in the early hours of Thursday to an unknown location after the hospital authorities had removed the bullet from his hand and declared that his condition stable. But it seems the police grilling was so intense that before he left the hospital for an undisclosed location he pleaded with the police and the medical staff to kill him. "Now, I don't want to live," he said.

Is this supposed to be a joke? These guys came fully armed, they had been planning for months, they were prepared to die and do anything because of whatever cause they believed in, and now the police grilling was getting to him?

Can someone cut out the tripe if they don’t have real information or opinions of any worth?

If Azam is this pussycat, then he does not qualify as a jihadi, a mujahideen or any of these terms. Because those guys want to become shaheed…they don’t plead with cops or get scared of being grilled. In fact, he would not have allowed himself to be caught; he would have killed himself.

Read up on how these people operate and how they are psychologically trained.

- - -

I am aware that Jews getting killed and Nariman House being under siege would make international news. It is sad that anyone died, and that includes those at this venue.

However, I would like to know why six members of a group called Zaka (acronym for Zihuy Korbanot Ason - Disaster Victim Identification) have arrived in the city and whether they will be permitted to do what they have come to - collect and arrange the body parts and blood of Jews so that they can be returned to family members and are afforded a dignified burial according to Jewish law.

This cannot be allowed under any circumstances until police investigations are completely over.

I wonder if they went to the US after 9/11 where it is said a sizeable number of Jews were in the Twin Towers.

- - -

Now, let us split Rahul Gandhi’s quote and see how I can respond:

"They think they can divide us, but this is not going to happen…”

Of course, it won’t. We are already divided. Forget the whole country, even this city is.

“they think they can scare us but this is also not going to happen…”

Of course, we are not scared, that is why even though we knew about something “spectacular” about to happen six months ago we took it coolly; they managed to plan everything meticulously. We are not scared…which is why a bunch of them held the city to ransom for 59 hours, that too by operating within confined spaces and not on the run.

“they think they can confine us to our homes but we will come out, fight and defeat them and bring progress to India.”

Of course, we will come out, fight and defeat them because we don’t do anything with the information we have beforehand. The ordinary people are out without 2000 cops tailing their VIP vehicles. They fight to survive not to prove a point. They defeat terrorism by often becoming victims.

Have some shame, Rahul. This does not bring progress to India. India will progress when it has its infrastructure in order, its people have drinking water and electricity and jobs.

Grow up. The BJP will be giving you five years by which time I should hope you will learn some things.

- - -

They say when the tragedy gets too much, there comes a time for release. You may now laugh out loud. This is part of a report (a report about men with guns, mind you) by a “former journalist” (is it any wonder that he is former?):

The best French restaurant in India is in the Taj, the Zodiac Grill. Its Camembert Dariole is a cheese cocoon, with the texture of spun silk. Its meat course is preceded by a sorbet, to wash the palate clean. The Taj knows quality and it knows service.


My turn.

Can you tell me how the presence of dry fruits gives any particular lead?

Were there dates? From which country? Almonds – Iranian or horrible American ones? Were the pistachios peeled? If not, then did the chhilkas leave any trails? Would the shape of the walnuts reveal any DNA details about the brains of the terrorists? Did they carry dried figs? They tend to get sticky, so did it hamper the operations? Finally, were any black raisins consumed? It means they had a low haemoglobin count, but since they also act as laxatives would we be able to tell what exactly transpired?

Merci, in advance, for any information.

So, am I supporting the handing over of Kashmir to Pakistan?

There is a good deal of out-of-context statements of mine that have been repeated here. Of particular importance is the one on Kashmir. The headline comes form such silly accusations.

I reproduce below the full article that was first published in my column Flipside in the June 24, 2000 issue of Mid-day, Mumbai, India.

Those who are interested in what I wrote eight years ago would find it interesting. (My views have not changed.) But do take cognisance of the timeframe when I mention x months ago etc…and do note words that are used in single quotes or end with a question mark and the specific reason certain statements were made, as in what they were responding to.

These are nuances that escape many people. I have highlighted certain portions in bold. Why? For those who like to leapfrog so that they can begin croaking.

- - -

Khuda Hafiz, Kashmir?
By Farzana Versey
June 24, 2000

I am a militant.

According to a BJP member, “Those who support the idea of greater autonomy (for Kashmir) are themselves militants.” I am tempted to ask how one would define somebody who talks about ‘Marathi maanus’. Would the Shiv Sena garland a portrait of Sunil Gavaskar with chappals? Has anyone in Punjab or Haryana said a word against Kapil paaji? Has the RSS called Mithun, Anil Kapoor, Mamta Kulkarni and scores of others, who were part of the Dubai/Sharjah circuit, “Dawood’s puppets”? Aren’t these too desperate versions of seeking autonomy and retaining ‘purity’?

Kashmir has been consistently treated shabbily. Which is why I support the move for its autonomy.

(The complete article has been posted on the other blog)


Mumbai blasts – heroes and zeroes

More than 48 hours later, Operation Tornado was almost done.

Have you been watching the news?

Let me give you the zeroes first...

Amitabh Bachchan has written something careless in his blog:

“I am ashamed to say this. As the events of the terror attack unfolded in front of me I did something for the first time and one that I had hoped never ever to be in a situation to do. I pulled out my licensed .32 revolver, loaded it and put it under my pillow.”

This, my friends, is being flaunted as the insecurity of the city-dweller. How many bodyguards does he have? What about his security? This is a wrong message being sent out to many people, including his poor fans.

How many people have licensed weapons? Isn’t he indirectly suggesting that we need to freely have access to weapons? The police force does. The army does. The commandoes do. Yet it took them two days to get rid of the terrorists, resulting in so many deaths.

His statement is most irresponsible. I am sure there are other ways for him to express how disturbed he is.

A stupid SMS message is doing the rounds:

“Where is Raj Thackeray and his ‘brave’ Sena? Tell him that 200 NSG Commandos from Delhi (South, west, east and North Indians!) have been sent to Mumbai to fight terrorists so that he can sleep peacefully. Plz forward this so that it reaches the coward bully!”

Again, we are told this shows the anger of the Mumbaikar. Please understand this. The fact that we mention where the commandos come from means we are underlining this fact ourselves.

There is no need to politicise this issue at all. If people have the courage, they should have sent out these SMS messages when his party was on a rampage and called him a terrorist.

Will we put in an appeal that next time this happens we will call in the commandoes?

Why did Narendra Modi come to Mumbai?

He was not needed. He is another state’s chief minister. By announcing a Rs 1 crore compensation to the kin of the victims he is only playing electoral politics. Then he visited Hemant Karkare’s widow. This same man, and the same BJP, had been critical of the ATS chief when he was investigating the Malegaon blasts.

I can only hope that his widow is compensated financially by the Government of India and gets due respect. The best way to preserve his memory is to continue with his work and persist with it. Let not this terror attack stop another investigation.

Why has Manmohan Singh asked the ISI chief to come to India?

Is he going to admit that Pakistan is involved, if as they say the terrorists are from Pakistan?

And what is this clubby talk about Indo-Pak relations getting mucked up? When were they good?

I do not wish to rush in with any suggestions or ideas, but one thing has to be done by both countries. Leave Kashmir alone.

Flippant soundbytes

Everyone, including media persons crouching on the ground, have been pointing at the Taj Mahal Hotel and calling it a landmark, in fact many more wonderful things. Social butterflies are being interviewed and they are weeping in their scented tissues, with full make up on, about how they were almost there, or near that hotel; some have got nostalgic memories about how they saved money as kids to eat at the Taj.

They are kosher. Not one word against this superficiality. When I did not have enough money to spend, I did not even aspire for that.

Society biggies are talking about having a citizens’ movement to curb terrorism.

Really? This is an insult to all those who risked their lives. Dealing with terrorism is not about holding hands and forming a human chain and issuing sweet-sounding statements.

Only because five-stars were targeted does not mean only the voices of the rich and famous should be heard.


It was not the rich and famous who were clamouring to shake hands with the NSG commandos. It was the common people from the streets. They cheered them as the operation was through.

The commandos are the brave souls.

I must mention the media persons who spent hours and hours under restricted circumstances to cover the happenings. I did not agree with some of the reportage, but they did their jobs and some rather well and with responsibility.

Mumbai’s ordinary people

For not analysing. For going back to work. There is utterly misleading talk about how for the first time this city is not back on its feet. Nonsense. Not applicable to milkmen, vegetable vendors, domestic helpers…

Mumbai, as I said that day, will survive.


Does anyone know what the terrorists are really demanding?

Remembering V P Singh

Had it not been for my ego, my first book would have been V.P. Singh’s biography. Hours and hours of tapes. Reams of words. All ready to be put together. Till I came across the statement, “Great. He is superb material.”

That did it. This would be about selling a commodity that was pretty much up for grabs because it had already been tried and tested. I wanted my first imprint to be about me. I wanted to see if I could sell
my journeys.

I mentioned it to him. He was happy for me, but occasionally he did talk about “your next book”.

He ceased to be a subject the moment I first met him.
Ever since that day eight years ago we talked at least twice every week, unless either of us was travelling, and lately since he took badly ill.

These are personal moments.

I remember.

The time he surprised me with a call, “Where are you?”


“I am lost.”

“What do you mean? Where are you?”

“In Bombay. I can’t find your place.”

“What? Why? I mean why are you coming…why didn’t you tell me?”

“Had I told you, then you would never have allowed it.”

This man who had to undergo dialysis every alternate day and was suffering from myeloma had flown down from Delhi, gone to the hospital for his dialysis and was on his way to meet me. Only because I had undergone a minor surgery.

He did this for people. People who would give him nothing, who had no name or fame.

I remember.

How he dipped the whole Marie biscuit in his tea cup and waited for it to soften and then daintily took it out with a spoon. I told him it was easier to dubao (dunk) it. Unlike the impression he gave with his crumpled kurta-pyjama, he was in fact extremely polished. Lunch, though painfully restricted for him (he had to get every morsel weighed on a machine, it was that bad, and every drop of water was counted), was indeed a perfect cutlery-crockery-linen mix. And it was served in courses.

I remember.

Him sketching…I sat there and watched and just felt so connected with it. He asked, “You really think it is good?” I said, “Not good; it just seems so silent.”

Months later he had an exhibition in Delhi. When we talked he told me that it was the first of his works that had a red mark. Sold. I knew it would reach out.

A few weeks later he was in Mumbai. I met him at the Sahyadri Guest House. He brought out the sketch and gave it to me. “But it was sold?”

“I said there was red mark. I put it on so no one could buy it. This is for you.”

“I can’t take it. I just said I liked it.”

“When have you ever said that you liked anything I have done?”

Yes, it is the monochromatic work that lies above where I type.
There are traces of him in some of my blog posts. I have been reluctant to throw his name around.

Incidentally, the first time I had refused to meet him. He found that intriguing. The reason I had given was that I did not meet politicians socially.
He liked flattery but it is rare for someone of his position to take brutal honesty. He could.

This might seem strange but he was not as sharp a political shooter as he is made out to be. Since I have an opinion on everything I told him the political party he was starting in 2006 was a stupid idea. We had a bit of an argument over that (he did sulk a lot). Then he put up Raj Babber as President. “Terrible.” I said. “Could you not find anyone else?”

“What is wrong with him? Years ago when I visited Bombay he took me around.”

“So, if someone plays tourist guide you make them the head of political parties? I can show you around…”

“You will be a terrible politician. Eik din nahin tikogi. (You won’t last a day.)”

I remember.

Sitting with him and his best friend at the latter’s house and these two talking like old schoolboys about the past.

He was obsessed with the past. Not about details but just the idea.

It is difficult for people to even fathom that writing a biography is one thing, understanding a person quite another. The latter helps in the former, but the person is not just a character.
If I got to know a lot about him, and discover a lot more, then he knew much more about me. I shared every little detail.

Can one be objective when you share your life’s moments with someone? I hate the term objective. I can only say I was more aware of his flaws than many because he exposed them. For one who had been written about so much, he was curious about my take. Why? Wasn’t he aware of his life? “Haan, lekin tumhare interpretation se dar lagta hai!” It certainly wasn’t fear (he once sent me copies of all the nasty stuff written about him which I put away saying that he could not decide what nasty stuff I should choose); he was mimicking my use of perception/interpretation.

I remember.

Him taking the phone in the ICU just a few months ago. He said the doctors did not think he would make it. And in the past few times he did broach the subject of the book. The last time he seemed peppy. “I think I am getting better.”

It was never quite that. Last week, he sounded down. This time he said, “
Ab tau kitaab likh hi do. I want to read it.”

I regret this ego of mine. I regret not being able to fight over my interpretation with him.

However, if there was anything he was prepared for it was death.

I remember.

That hospital room at Apollo and how he would tilt his head and empty a sachet of sugar in his mouth as his blood pressure fell towards the end of the dialysis session. I usually left before I had to see him in that state when his eyes would become heavy and his face drained.

Ab khusi-khusi sui jao,” were the Bhojpuri words I learned from him.

That is all I can say now…

Sleep well…

- - -

Muflis se
ab chor ban raha hoon
uss bhare bazaar se
churaoon kya
Yahan wohi cheezein sajee hain
jinhein lutaakar
muflis ho chuka hoon.

(From VP's ‘Ek Tukda Dharti, Ek Tukda Akash’)

- - -

I took this picture in May this year when I was in Delhi. It is at his house and the painting behind him is one of his favourite works.


Mumbai blasts...and careless whispers

It has been over 15 hours. Over 100 killed. Over 225 injured. 11 places attacked. Terrorists are still holed up inside some of these places.

It has been barely over 15 hours and everyone has turned into an expert.

I live in Mumbai. I know each one of these places.

This is the list:

Cama Hospital, GT hospital, CST (formerly VT) rail terminus; Taj Hotel at the Gateway, Oberoi Trident at Nariman Point, Nariman House Colaba, the domestic airport at Santa Cruz, the Metro Adlabs multiplex and Mazagaon Dockyard, Vile Parle.

Already, theories are being thrown around. It is disconcerting but unavoidable that the newspapers that came in late, naturally to front page this story, carried on its second page information about the Malegaon blasts in which there was this news item:

“Interrogation of Sudhakar Dwivedi alias Dayanand Pandey, who is in police custody till December 1, has revealed that the group was working to create an ‘Aryavarta Rashtra’ in India,’’ an ATS official said. talked about creating a Hindu Rashtra.

It is easy to put two and two together. After all, the ATS chief who was investigating that case has been killed, so have two other officers. And 14 policemen.

It is easy to say a lot of things. How could a boat filled with arms and grenades manage to get in? They are now insinuating the role of the underworld (something I mentioned during the attacks in other cities), but what does it say about our intelligence agencies? That arms can come in as easily by the underworld as narcotics?

What do the news channels mean when they say two terrorists were chased out of GT Hospital? Were they flies that they were chased out? Should not the security personnel have run after them and caught them or even shot at them and extracted information?

And then people want me to condemn the attack.

I won’t. I won’t because I will not dismiss off a tragedy, and the sick face of society, in one sentence. I won’t because every leader from the ruling party does it and means shit. I won’t because Opposition parties do it and mean shit. I won’t because groups as diverse as media gods and maulanas gather to condemn it and mean shit. I won’t because even those who we suspect as the outside hand condemn it and mean shit. I won’t because terrorist organisations rush to take responsibility for such acts and the ones who don’t condemn it and mean shit.

I won’t because I am not upto shit.

But I will make a few suggestions:

- Blog groups have sprung up; in the past some have been helpful in providing information. Let them not become another source of sensationalism. They have limited information because most areas are under curfew. Yes, they might be helpful for helplines and blood donation requests etc.

- The media is being kept at a distance, so what you watch on television is a distant image. Their job is to report based on flimsy facts. Why the hell are their giving their opinion? Someone said it looks like what has been happening in Jammu and Kashmir. What has been happening? AK-47 rifles? Grenades? No one heard of this before? They say these are the Fidayeen because they are willing to die. Every terrorist is. From every country and with any affiliation. Not everyone is smart enough to plan a whole operation and get members of another community to plant bombs.

- Do not let rumours run havoc and reach conclusions. Mobile phones are working.

- Politicians please stay out of this until things are a bit under control. We do not have the resources to take care of your security. There is no need for Advani to rush from Delhi; the BJP government is not in power here.

- Do not pay any attention to expats. They know zilch. They resort to half-baked truths if not outright lies. They are trying to connect with their roots and feel a part of the action. They are a sorry group of disgruntled people who create more fissures; they sponsor religious organisations; they start the blame game. Mumbai and India are not yours. Get that in your heads. Right now.

Your two-bit donations to some organisations do not make you Indian. Your stupid nostalgia for films and streets does not make you Indian.

And your analysis of the ground realities do not count, so shut up and stay out of this.

I can comment on the police, the army, the law enforcement authorities, the government because I am paying for their upkeep. I can comment on the citizens of my country, wherever they are and whoever they are and whatever I feel about them, because they are mine.

I can question them, but not judge them.

I have not asked any Hindu to condemn the role of sadhus and sadhvis. I have not asked the armymen to condemn the role of some armyman. I have not asked anyone to condemn Narendra Modi or Bal Thackeray.

Because I know that anyone can do that. I also know that most people want to go about their lives in peace and are being brainwashed.

I have not talked about the beautiful dome of the Taj Mahal Hotel. Why do these idiots not condemn those who have been weeping over it? Do you know that the hotel sent out a message that it is doing everything to protect its guests and staff and will bring the Taj back “to its former glory”? What kind if statement is this at such a time?

Who wants to see the fucking dome? Who? Some NRIs? Foreigners?

Yes, I go to that hotel. Yes, I visit the Sea Lounge. Yes. Yes. I am not their only patron. They make money because several Indians eat there, have coffee there. I am not asking the Government of India to sponsor my coffee. I am not asking some foreign agency to sponsor my coffee. I am not sponging on anyone. I am paying for my own coffee.

And don’t give me that crap about how India allows me to do so. India gains as much to benefit from my being its citizen as I do from being an Indian.

The day I renege on my tax payments or commit a default or crime, then the Indian courts can take action against me. No one has the right to question my nationality or my motives or of any members of any community only because you think the terrorists owe allegiance to a certain religion.

Certainly not those who stood in line to get their special visas to run away from my country.

Mumbai will survive and I am glad that the NRIs are not here. They do not deserve India.

India, good and bad, will be questioned by me. I will not turn a blind eye to its flaws. Because unlike you who come here for your annual vacation and take pictures of debris, I talk about cleaning it. I know I don’t live close to it, but the people I care about do. People who earn an honest living do.

Our helper took the local train and came to work this morning. She watched a bit of TV with me. She did not want to know whether I have condemned the act. That thought did not even strike her. I won’t mention her religion. For neither of us is that detail important.


Mumbai gets a mouthful

Everyone knows I love my city. In that sense I am quite parochial. It is a great place to watch life as though it were one of those cinema verite films where the director uses a hand-held camera, shoots as it is and calls it art. Mumbai needs no editing. It is lean and mean and hungry.

The reason for this post is hunger and the acid on my tongue is bubbling to singe all these sick political parties and some media houses which have made a joke of poverty, immigrants and as basic a need as food.

Last week or so The Times of India had some Vada Pav contest where celebrities went around town checking out this humble delicacy. You should have seen these society dames and dudes putting on their “Look, I am enjoying this road stuff dahlin’, it really ain't so bad” act, as they took bites of the potato ball-chutney mix stuffed into soft bread.

What is my problem with this? My problem is that this food is available for two rupees and many people, including lower middle class office goers, have it and in the way it is cooked not trussed up for a party; it is a full meal for many of them…not some little snack they can wash down with Vermouth. Or an appetiser before they can go on to their entrée after a palate-cleanser sorbet of course…

You want to eat vada pav, go eat it. You want to promote it, then make sure it does not stand out like some big-shit event. The winners of the stalls were felicitated at a five star hotel. Obviously, our socialites won’t want to dress up for an awards function and be in the streets. Unless it is the Gateway of India backdrop listening to a musician they have never heard, only heard about.

My concern is that some of these stall owners will increase the price of these eatables. They might want to cater to the saabs and memsaabs who will send their drivers and servants to pick the stuff up.

Those who subsist on this sort of food do not need a certificate of approval from Page 3 types.

They also do not need a certificate from politicians. The Shiv Sena organised a Shiv Vada Pav Sammelan. Whether there is a sammelan or not, who cares? However, it must be credited with starting the zunka bhakar stalls quite some time ago and the purpose indeed was to have one more low-priced meal available. The current vada pav plan is clearly political. That is the reason the Congress has jumped into the fray.

It is planning a Kande Pohe fair. This is what its party spokesperson said:

“If Shiv Sena is claiming that Vada Pav is a Maharashtrian delicacy, it is a big lie. The basic ingredients of vada are potato and besan, which come from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, while onions and pohe, the ingredients in Kande Pohe, are available right here in Maharashtra.”

Idiots. The head of your party is from Italy, so quit this nonsense. Isn’t the Congress supposed to fight against the SS’s attitude towards immigrants? Then what is this? The poor person who needs food wants it cheap and quick. These corporate and political smart asses go and do their research when it is known that they are more concerned about the vintage of their wine (and sometimes women). I wish they’d be honest at least to themselves.

How do I like my pav? Oh, fukket it…pass me a spoonful of caviar and spread it on some smoked toast, please…

- - -

I am seriously not a big street food fan, or any kind of chaat. It is no big deal, however, if one does stop by at a roadside stall to have something. I just cannot bring myself to open my mouth wide in the street to stuff anything in it – not even my foot.

So, if you want to see me on my best behaviour, then walk with me…get some blisters!

Hating the Beatles

From The Dean Martin Show, Oct. 7, 1965. Allan Sherman with Dean Martin and Vic Damone


Dis n Dat


The political wing of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency which used to spy on politicians and rig elections has been disbanded and will now focus only on internal security issues.

Someone please tell those who are getting all excited about this bit of news that internal security issues often have to do with the activities of politicians. Has any foreign power been responsible for the killing of its leaders?


Ramosana, a small village in Gujarat’s Mehsana district. Since the last 15 days, 3,000 priests have been chanting hymns to invoke divine intervention to tackle the global financial crisis.

The globe does not know about Mehsana, Mehsana does not know about the globe, much less its financial crisis.

Now comes the fun part: This yagna will continue for the next two years (gosh, these priests sure know about market trends) and will cost approximately Rs 150 crore.

Who is paying for it? Don’t tell me some poor traders in Mehsana have been roped into believing that all this stock diving is going to affect their daily lives and they must cough up money? This is utter nonsense.

What is the point of going to the moon when we are still trying to appease god and goddesses for various crises? With this money, they could construct houses for the poor, or small industries and employ people.

What is Narendra Modi doing? Is this his idea of going global?


You can rise in Australia. Join The Australian Sex Party. This is a political party and its slogan is “We are serious about sex”. The target voters will be its four million citizens who access pornography.

Its policies will include a national sex education curriculum, reducing censorship, abolishing government’s proposed Internet filter and supporting gay marriage.

These are honourable motives. Am wondering though whether being serious about sex means no laughing, no tickling, no flippant acts of feather caresses or popping bubbles…no kangaroo jumps…


The Dalai Lama could be a good model for the Fevicol ad. Says he:

“There is no point or question of retirement. It is my moral responsibility to lead the Tibetans till my death. My whole body and flesh is Tibetan.”

So were those who were killed a few months ago.

And he is now even willing to give up the Dalai Lama position after he is gone!

“There are various ways of doing it (having a successor). The point is whether to continue with the institution of the Dalai Lama or not. After my death, Tibetan religious leaders can debate whether to have a Dalai Lama or not. I may be the last Dalai Lama…My successor can be a young boy or a girl. Girls show more compassion. Also, women are dominating things all over the world.”

I think spiritual leaders should make up their minds whether they want to be politicians or god’s middlemen/women. He clearly has no idea what he is talking about.


John Lennon has been forgiven by the Vatican for his remark about the Beatles being “more popular than Jesus”.

What is the use? It has been 40 years. The Church is still around, so is the memory of the Beatles.

The Vatican’s official newspaper said:

“After so many years it sounds merely like the boasting of an English working-class lad struggling to cope with unexpected success”.

It should have hit them on the head way back then. It does not have to be success going to his head, just refusal to believe in institutionalised religion or wanting to create a new world through music. That the Church even objected is puerile.

All Lennon said was:

“Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink We’re more popular than Jesus now — I don’t know which will go first, rock and roll or Christianity.”

Why did the Church want Jesus to be ‘popular’? And this sudden forgiveness business is a bit silly. Instead of regurgitating 40 year-old comments, they should have gone and stopped that Michael Jackson from converting to Islam. There is still time for them to take him back.

They will save two religions for the price of one.


Want to grill me?

An inland letter arrived from Srinagar. An old reader. He says he was overjoyed to find my book in a store there. So am I.

I did not think I would end up answering queries by readers. Curiosity. Anger. Interest. Amusement. Sadness. They express it all.

It struck me that I should let those of you who wish to pose your queries do so. Right here. If you have read the book, then great. But don't get too specific and personal about the details. Those who have not may also ask what they want.

There are some restrictions. No abuses, just as I am not seeking flattery. Also each query, even if anonymously posted, must have a name/nick and country of residence. Mention whether you have read or not read.

Use the comment box on this post. I will compile them (if need be use the ones I have got via email too) and post it as an interview with your names and nicks.

Am not sure if it's a good idea but given that I am answering via email I may as well choose this space.

The initial posts on the Journey blog (linked on the sidebar) have some details.

Let's see how it goes.

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This post may not be formatted as I am not at the PC. Hope technology works for me better than humans have done.

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For Saturday


"Mujhe tum se kuchch bhi na chahiye
Mujhe mere haal pe chhod do..."


November summer.




I shall look into a kaleidoscope.

Be nice:

Hmm...er...ok...tomorrow is Sunday. Happy?


All about Eve

This Devi prefers her devta’s dad

When we hear regressive statements by so-called progressive women, here comes a story of a woman in a Bihar village. Lalita Devi is 25. Her husband left their home in Dhamiapatti village in Madhubani district to work in a factory in Gujarat. While he was away, she had an affair with her father-in-law.

When the guy returned and saw his pita and patni locked together, there was much hullabaloo. Instead of feeling chastised and doing what one would expect a village woman to do, she declared that she was leaving him and their children to marry her papa-in-law. She made the decision.

It is possible to make several moral comments here, but why?

Uma’s Umang

Remember how the RSS had objected to Uma Bharti’s friendship with their pracharak K. Govindacharya, reminding them about celibacy?

The lady was sharp enough to continue with the party, marketing herself as the bold sanyasin. Now that she has competition in Sadhvi Pragya – younger and a bike rider – she has promptly got her mentor to join hands with her.

Very cunning move. If she was serious about his contribution, she would not have waited just ten days before the Madhya Pradesh elections. They are opposing the BJP, and as Govindacharya said,

“It’s time the nationalist forces pitched in. The two major conglomerates in Indian politics (Congress and BJP) have become pro-rich, pro-minority and pro-foreign... There’s a political space vacant and that is one of the reasons for me to join active politics again.”

Does this mean that their organisation Rashtriya Swabhiman Andolan (RSA) will be pro-poor, pro-majority, pro-swadeshi? This would statistically amount to 80 per cent of the country. Clearly, the nation is interested in other things.

Their new slogan is:

“Jab milenge roti-Ram, tab hi banenge poore kaam (when we get food and Ram together, then our work will be complete). So far, political parties have either spoken of Ram or of ‘roti’ but none has spoken of both together.”

Super. Kapda and makaan don’t matter. After all Lord Ram spent time in the forest in a little hut.

Does food then mean picking black berries?

Her time to show the jerks

I hear literary agents are wooing Sarah Palin. I can also hear the tut-tuts doing the rounds with a sneer. Oh dear, she will cash in on this, they will say. Sure as hell she will, as she must.

If others can capitalise on her “blonde moment” and her banality, then so can she. Forget her politics, whatever it may be if it is at all, she has indeed led an interesting life that meandered towards the mundane to again catapult her to the limelight.

Chances of some academics pontificating on the ‘Sarah factor’ filling up tomes that will grace library shelves are possible. We already got glimpses of them in a slew of serious thesis-type articles. After all, they have done Barbie and Madonna with much fervour, so what will stop them from doing Sarah? They will peel her layer upon layer. It begs the question: does one invest so much in so little?

We have our reasons for understanding fluff. I am a great believer in analysing pop culture, and anything that fits into the genre – people, ideas, events – are grist for the writer’s mill.

She may do a whitewash job, she may play to the gallery, she may come up with a sob story, she may rant against the “jerks”. But it is her story and she has as much a right to tell it as anyone else.

People make millions just flashing stained skirts to show as achievement. Some get invited to pose for Playboy; others go on lecture tours and earn big bucks.

Sarah Palin’s may not be a great story but for the naysayers here’s a sop: You got Obama because she was so not on, right?

She flexes their muscles

BJP’s candidate from Jodhpur, Suryakanta Vyas, looks like the sort of woman you would see making dung cakes, not walking around with beefcakes. She has done just that. Roped in these bodybuilders to campaign for her. Since the party has a bare-bone manifesto, she is at least providing the meat.

The petty games at Big Boss

“Oh no, we don’t watch Big Bosssss…you must be craazzyyy.”

Nope. I watch it as much as I like watching hypocritical socialites who pretend to watch classics on HBO. It fits into my time schedule and I like people watching.

This season of the reality show has been tepid. The person who was made to stand out was Rahul Mahajan. I say made to because on his own he would have been a dud. He was handed the best roles on a platter. And as Krishna he got a readymade Radha and Meera. Turns out that the three are really good at ras leela.

One of the women, Monica Bedi, was known as gangster Abu Salem’s moll and was in prison after she was extradited from Portugal to India.

Rahul was caught in a drug spree, where his father’s secretary died under mysterious circumstances, soon after the senior’s death, and was arrested. He got away, at least technically, and arranged a quick marriage in a ‘simple’ manner. Soon enough his wife came up with bruises. They are now divorced and good friends. All staged. I don’t care about his iffy sexuality; that these social birds on the make are ready to offer him cover is their and his problem.

What I object to is these people using a show to clear their names. And worst of all, a gullible public will accept their television image. Monica was smart. For the first half she played the nice homely lass; after her eviction and re-entry as a wild card, she had transformed into a glamorous (as glamorous as she could manage) woman. You need to be dumb not to realise which one was real. Neither. She is just a smart cookie who wants to get back into films; now her old lover (he says they had got married) is not there to help her like he did earlier. She gave a sob story – which may be partially true – about people not renting out a place to her. That is what happens to many such young women in the city even if they don’t have a gangster background.

Rahul was quite another smartie. He too wanted to clear his name, but could not get rid of the verbal slurring and manic laughter that is associated with certain habits. He was charming, he was friendly, he did a bit of everything…making sure that at least once every while someone mentioned that he was a youth leader.

On Saturday, there were not adequate provisions in the house for food, so the four men, finalists, decided to climb the wall and to the other side. Everyone else expressed guilt; not Rahul. He said this was not cowardice but rebellion. Heck, one of his chamchas left behind even said he was a Bhagat Singh!

He broke a rule. The channel and the company should have thrown him out. He was given the option to leave voluntarily. Not only that, he was interviewed specially for the show.

He is in today’s papers. And he has the audacity to state: “In any case, what I would have won would have gone to charity. In this case, I consider my eviction a charitable act on my part so that my friends may win the cash they so badly need. Charity should start at home; Bigg Boss’s house is home.” Patronising bully.

He has emphasised that he does not need the money. Yes. He does not. His father, who was killed by his own brother, had made more than enough. The father’s legacy lives on in other ways. We attack only one dynasty. What about the others? Although he does not have a good track record, the BJP immediately took him under its wing; now his sister is contesting the elections from South Mumbai; her claim to fame besides her lineage is that she has made herself visible at all Page 3 covered parties. He says he will be his sister’s mascot.

And you know what? It may work. Their target electorate are the socialites who they hobnob with. I can see them rooting for the “cutie” who talks about karma, so much like they do at their Art of Living sessions.

Yeah, go ahead and hold your nose, baby. Pranayama is so good to avoid your own stink.


Gay fathers, Indian mother

Israeli gay couple, Yonatan and Omer Gher, hired a surrogate mother to deliver their child here. Their first-born was conceived with a Mumbai-based surrogate mother. Great. I mean it. Now, let us get to the questions. Here is a part of the report:
India, with its availability of surrogates, easy paperwork and lower costs has earned a reputation for its surrogacy programme, with Anand in Gujarat often being referred to as the ‘surrogacy capital of the world’.

Is this why India needs Narendra Modi, as some half-baked columnists are whooping with joy about? Just this one clinic where the Israeli couple went to has been responsible for 40 such surrogate births since 2005. There is nothing to feel proud of. It is because we are a country of cheap labour, and motherhood has been reduced to just that.

Surrogacy is available only in the US and India, and naturally they chose India because of the cost factor. And to think that so many Indians who don’t have much money and crave children cannot afford this option because of not just money but also bureaucracy.

Another aspect that disturbs me is they have called their first-born, Evyatar. It means “more fathers’’ in Hebrew. Imagine a child growing up with this identification. Does it have to be so obvious? And what about the mother’s role?

Oh, they are planning another baby with her because they want “real siblings”. It’s all about them and theirs. The woman can take the cash and go, and am sure it is a small portion of what the clinic charged.

If this is our selling point, then we must start making people cough up more for it. Motherhood is not some commodity available at discount over the counter. Indians go on and on about Shakti and Durga and Lakshmi.

Here’s our chance to respect the wealth of woman power.

Look who's saying women ask for rape

Actress Helen Mirren believes that female jurors are more likely to think rape victims had “asked for it”, because they are sexually jealous.
In the interview to Britain’s Sunday Times magazine, she said:
“Whether in a deep-seated animalistic way, going back billions of years, or from a sense of tribal jealousy or just antagonism, I don’t know. But other women on a rape case would say she was asking for it. The only reason I can think of is that they’re sexually jealous.”
She has been pulled up for her basic lack of knowledge about the legal process. She ought to be taken to task for trying pop psychology. Billions of years ago, when primates ruled, it was the male who had to preen and prance to get female attention. The women could sew their feathers and fur without ruffling them.
Tribal jealousy works more at the level of bonding than branding. As regards antagonism, is it personal? Is the rape victim in any way better than the juror? If there is an assumption that sexual attractiveness of one as opposed to the lack of it in the other has brought this about, then again Ms. Mirren should have her head examined. For rape is not about sex, but power. The rapist does not give a damn what his victim looks like as long as he can control her. It is unlikely that he would get any sexual pleasure where he is essentially playing with himself.
Unless he knows her.
This brings us to the other controversial comment made by Ms. Mirren a couple of months ago. She had stated then that women who have been date-raped should not take their attackers to court as it would be difficult to press charges against someone they had planned on being sexually active with.
Does going out on a date necessarily mean planning to have sex with the person? I do understand that it is possible for a woman to cry foul, but how many young women would risk their reputation for it? If such planning is part of the agenda, then why are teen girls stuck with unwanted pregnancies? Where are the guys who were part of the planning?
Has she not heard about marital rape that even the law recognises because it is against the wife’s consent?

Celebrity women ought to realise their responsibility, not only towards women but society. Such sweeping statements merely reveal that someone indeed has a lot of time to look back in anger.

Faking blue blood to portray a queen on screen does not make you regal.

New twist to Hindu-Muslim bhai-bhai

It does not surprise me. Raj Thackeray has infiltrated Muslim localities and managed to sign up more than 1,500 Muslims for primary party membership. His party flag flutters near a Masjid at Dongri, a predominantly Muslim area, and even the Shiv Sena has kept quiet. These people are being brainwashed into believing that North Indians are causing problems.

Do you think they believe in it? No. They are saving themselves. A report says it is economic survival…outsiders are taking their jobs. Rubbish. They are being bulldozed and they are going along. There is little choice. The MNS will have its quota of Muslims to flaunt; these will be a protected species till such time when they are needed.

It does not surprise me. In the past, a certain section of fairly well-placed Muslims are known to have taken mithai boxes (euphemism for money) to Bal Thackeray’s house to settle disputes. His durbar welcomed them. It wasn’t about money, but might. These gentlemen who were known and respected were going to him asking for favours. The ‘Supremo’ (what a fruitcake description) was khush.

It does not surprise me that although Lt. Col. Shrikant Purohit has said the logistics for the blast were provided by hardline Hindus (big strategists, hanh?) he roped in some Muslims in Malegaon to assemble and plant the bombs. It is entirely possible. Survival, survival. Of course, to say that they got the RDX from some Kashmiri Muslims in Pune was a bit much (other evidence says so, too), but it only tells us that even the Hindutva movement cannot survive without Mussalmans.

It started way back when those sadhus went to Ayodhya in December 1992 wearing padukas (wooden sandals) designed by Muslims.

It does not surprise me because I have been saying this is all andar ki baat for some years and was accused of conspiracy theories, that too over Sea Lounge coffee. As it turns out, the froth from the cappuccino was potent.