Tweeting Tharoor Again

Come on guys, is there anyone out there calling Shashi Tharoor a jihadi apologist?

Imagine a statement like this coming from someone like you know who:

“Is all that worth it just in hope of making it difficult for a future Headley to recce? R we going 2 allow terrorists 2 make us less welcoming? 26/11 killers had no visas.”

This has been my position and that of quite a few people. Don’t know about the quite a few people, but we know what happens when I state this.

But, what are his reasons? He talks as though terrorists are spoiling the party when we had those cute pictures and sound bytes from tourists who ‘braved’ the 26/11 anniversary to be here, sat at Leopold with their beers, walked down the Gateway promenade and generally ‘challenged’ the terrorists.

Tharoor’s statement sounds a bit too smart and Obamaesque and falls straight in line with how the West thinks. Those governments may occasionally put out terror alerts, but they will make sure that they do not lose the India commercial connection. And sure enough, that is his concern: Tourism and business. He is one-dimensional in his approach, as has become clear by now.

It is our government and the opposition parties that have created the paranoia. Instead of tweeting about it, he should be discussing it with his ministers. By saying that the terrorists had no visas he is implying that our security is not up to nuff and anyone can indeed get in.

So, here’s a tweet for the minister: “Hol desntns full, Mum partng like crzy. Time 4 u to workout where Headley did n got Moksha. U cn get urs too. Hppy Nw yr n hand-on-heart sing Jana Gana Mana!”
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*Moksha is the name of the gym that Headley often visited.


The battle for no religion

Islam was written on my birth certificate, but that did not ‘make’ me a Muslim. In school we had to fill such forms. In the later years of college, I would put in NA – not applicable. The clerk was too busy to notice. Most people are, unless it is in an exceedingly important context.

So, what is this hullabaloo over a well-educated couple choosing “to battle an unremitting bureaucracy from the very start and refused to fill in the column titled ‘Religion’ in their child’s most basic document, the birth certificate”? Incidentally, the TOI headline was, "No religion please, we’re liberals"! The amount of time liberals take to discuss religion cannot mean 'no religion'.

Aditi Shedde and Aalif Surti are the Hindu Maharashtrian mother and Gujarati Muslim father of the special baby. Says the mother:

“A few months into my pregnancy, we had decided that we would not give our child any religious identity. We are not against religion, but who are we to choose a religion on our baby’s behalf? We will expose him to the values of different faiths and cultures, and when he grows up he will be free to follow any faith—or none if he wishes.”

That would have been possible even if they had added a religion. There are many of us who do not actively practise any faith even though we have been branded. Heck, we get branded anyway.

If it is different cultures they want to expose the child to, then they could have made him a Jew or a Christian. As it turns out they had to fill in “Others”.

“Others is just to facilitate the generation of the certificate. We know our child has no religion.”

I do not understand. If they insist the child has no religion, why make such a noise about it? It only draws attention to the fact that they have a religion which they are not practising. Adults make these choices. Their baby will grow up and make several others. He could take to certain habits they may not approve of (and I am sure they do have certain values they believe in) – will they leave it to choice?

Why give the child a name when he can choose it when he grows up? Or will they select one of those abstract ones or something from Greek mythology to make certain that their respective religions do not come in the way to brandish their views?
If both of them belonged to the same faith would they have done the same thing? I doubt it. I think this is more statement than a practical reality.

Over a decade ago, I had written this:

But religion per se cannot give anyone an identity in the fluctuating late 20th century society. It can only provide the much-dreaded moral fibre and a mistakenly-interpreted formula for living. Besides, it does colour our interpretation of the world.

If the child under discussion were to make the choice, is there any guarantee he will not be exposed to any religion anywhere? Why are the parents identifying themselves with the different faiths they were born in? What will they tell him when he grows up a bit and sees people around with tags? Therefore, it is about religion, anyway you look at it.

When I was a kid I was asked whether I wanted to have the muliyani come over and I refused. When I stopped participating in certain rituals – which were anyway a rarity at our house – no one questioned me.

Identity is larger than a label. If it is not, then we are in serious trouble and no amount of battling bureaucracy and having something fancy on a piece of paper will change that.

What if the child wants to change his gender later? Why put 'Male' in the form? I know this is stretching it, but how else do you reach out?
- - -

In an incident that worked in an opposite manner I once filled out a form for my mother and put NA in the religion section, but the person insisted it was required. I later informed her about it and she shot back, “Who has given you the right to make this choice for me? I am a Muslim and that is a fact. I don’t tell you what you should follow, so don’t interfere in mine.”

Sunday ka Funda

Revisiting these links sent to me. You may have issues with the message, but some things have not changed. Pat Condell was speaking between 2007-2008. Something to think about:

Hello America

United States of Jesus


Old Man and the She

Narain Dutt Tiwari is doing fine. He is the Governor of Andhra Pradesh and was caught with his pajamas down but with his shirt on lying on his back in bed, we are informed, with two women and a third at his feet. The women were “without a shred of clothing”.

Pictures of these appeared on the Telugu channel ABN Andhra Jyothi for an hour before someone had enough of the pajama party.

I have a few technical queries, but first the details.

A woman named Radhika sent the girls in return for mining projects she was promised, the channel said. As the promise was not kept, she handed over some pictures taken by her.

“We have evidence (to back) what we have shown,” said the person from the TV channel.

Right. The woman who did not get what she wanted sent them as bait.

What are the women’s organisations that are protesting going to do about it? Here are some of their quotes…

The Progressive Organisation of Women:

“We have a woman President and another managing the biggest party in the country. We will petition them to take stern action against this man.”

All India Democratic Women’s Association:

“But such action is not taken against a person who holds such a high constitutional position and has besmirched the highest office with this cheap act.”

A Rights activist:

“We must cleanse Raj Bhavan with milk.”

Is this a sex scandal? As Governor, Raj Bhavan is his house. Was he using office space? Did he leave a meeting for the rendezvous? Did he physically abuse the girls? The media has referred to them as call girls – have they complained against him? Did he call them? No. Then, what ruse did they use to get in?

Now, for my tech stuff. The man is lying down. These are stills. Was he stripped? Did he strip the women or did they opt to do it themselves? Did he pay them? Who took the pictures if they were occupied at the task at hand and they were wearing nothing where they could hide a spy cam? Was the camera positioned beforehand? Was a staffer involved? Is anyone thinking about security risk?

The issue of Telengana is still causing hiccups. Perhaps, this was a diversionary tactic and a political manouevre. Opposition TDP president and former CM N Chandrababu Naidu said:

“The Raj Bhavan incident shows the low level of ethics. Everyone should be ashamed. The governor should either resign immediately or should be sacked.”

Ethics! What a lovely word it is, can be used for anything. Is it ethical that some woman wanted to get favours, chose to bait him and get pictures taken and then sent them off to a TV channel that telecast it? How does it affect people’s morality? Do the Andhraites consider N.D.Tiwari as a role model who they have been emulating and this act has come as a shock and altered their perception of sexuality and high office?

And why are some people wondering about the ethics of having the TV channel muzzled? Don't we sit and ask questions about the ethics of reality shows? How different is this and how will it contribute to social understanding of anything? If those shows are staged, then what about this one?

We are a bunch of hypocrites. Had he used one of the circuit houses that our hardworking babus regularly do, would it have been okay? Had he given that mine deal, would it be fine? Had the TV channel not aired it, nobody would know. Then what? Would anyone talk about ethics?

As regards washing the Raj Bhavan with milk, where are the ethics of wastage?

People do not consider politicians as paragons of virtue, anyway. What about other professionals or figures we treat with awe and the tamashas they indulge in? Why do they get hushed up?

This one will be, too. There have been many cases down the years, but we just don’t seem to be able to accept them. Oh, Nehru’s relationship with Edwina was platonic kind of stuff. A lot does happen. And if it is consensual, then why not? If we want saints, we will ask for saints. Let these men and women continue to do what normal people do or wish they could do.

There was another instance about someone claiming he was his father. ND has had such disappearing stints earlier, and once everyone buys enough time for Telengana things will be forgotten, including that mine deal.

Obviously, his spokespersons have denied it was him. Poor guy, trapped in this titular post, cannot even show off. Or he would qualify for the Viagra Ratna award if he did more than just lie down.
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Image: The picture is about the paternity case and obviously old, for the boy brought it up when he was 29

Creases: Silvatein

Aansuon ka shabnam hona bekaar hai
Jab palkein hi murjha gayi

~ ~

Jhuriyon ke beech andheri si galee hai
Usey tajurba kehne se roshni nahin milti

~ ~

Ab kitne hi qisse nichod lo
Yaadein sookhi pad gayi hai

~ ~

Wahaan mauzon ne angdayee lekar sab bujha diya
Yahaan reit neend ke liye taras gayi

~ ~

Aasmaan ko fark nahin padta agar baadal bikhar jaaye
Woh tau itaraega unke beech se bhi

~ ~

Deewaron se kharosh ki awaaz aati hai
Makaan bante waqt kuchch na kuchch tau toot jaata hai

~ ~

Khushiyon ke jab parr nikal aate hai
Unke udd jaane ke aasaar bhi nazar aate hai

~ ~

Agar bistar karvaton ka hisaab rakhne lage
Na jaane kitne maayoos sapnon ka haal mile

~ ~

Aanchal ko lehra diya khidki se
Dhoop uski aaghosh mein sahara lene aa hi gayi

~ ~

Jism ko dhaank kar kapde saazish ke haqdar ban gaye
Magar kahani tau silvatoun mein chhupi hoti hai



Ghalib and the kiss at Indian weddings

naadaan ho jo kehte ho ki kyon jeete ho 'Ghalib'
qismat mein hai marne ki tamannaa koi din aur

Would Mirza Ghalib’s ghost have stood waiting near the coffee maker amongst neon lights for his post-dinner beverage?

The news that his haveli, which was restored only 10 years ago, was used for a wedding reception is rather appalling. Imagine people in their finery jostling amongst the poet’s personal belongings. A report says the floor was “littered with food crumbs, crushed plastic glasses and disposable plates”.

Why would anyone choose such a place for their celebrations? Do they feel culturally enlightened and wish to convey that to their guests? Is it some sort of antique value they seek? This isn’t something new. It happens all the time – old paintings, old mansions used by the nouveau riche to convey some connection with a background they often lack. Everybody has a right to strive to make money and awareness is not the jaagir of those born into wealth. But the term nouveau is used disparagingly and not without reason. There is a category of people who will flash whatever they have.

The bride and groom may not necessarily have an acquaintance with the poet’s work. What about the parents? Assuming they are fans of Ghalib, could they not respect the space? These days every little religious icon gets sanctified even if it is put up by some goon. Why don’t we learn to value those who truly contributed to our lives and their works have lived down centuries?

There are many farm houses in Delhi. They could have been given that old world look and trussed one up to appear like a crumbling haveli.

Marriages are now all about event management, so this seems par for the course.

On the other hand, there is news that Indians are giving up traditional functions (that coffee maker is an indication!). I read this from an article about fusion weddings:

One affluent and typical Gujarati family had hosted an English dinner after the dandiya function. The desi best man and maid of honour, dressed in coordinated traditional Indian wear, made speeches and raised a toast to the couple as aunties and uncles grinned behind clusters of flowers on assigned tables. The last few phera mantras were translated into English on the microphone by the pandit and the couple even exchanged I dos, says the wedding planner.

I am concerned about the English dinner. I have seen food stalls with Burmese bhel, paneer dim-sums, but since we are talking about vegetarians would they stuff the jacket potatoes with poha or dal dhokli? People do drink, but I wonder about the toast. Something like, “May Jitesbhai and Falguni ben leeve hep-peeli after”.

The sardars would go full throttle with a “Chak de phate, Hramindarr pra and Hramindarr pojai. Oye gud luck and many tandoori nights…”

When one passes the Marine Drive there are several garishly-decorated wedding venues. Some have thermocole elephants flanking the gate; others have a Venus ice sculpture. I have not yet seen David in the buff.

For a relative’s marriage in Toronto that I was present at they had traditional ceremonies before marriage, then a nikaah with an English translation (I got there late, so missed it), and the reception was a complete volte face. The bride wore a gown. There was a Best Man who emcee-ed the show and took off his shirt. There were speeches; the tables had bows and gifts for everyone. And the couple took to the floor with a waltz…dancing to the Bollywood number "Kuchch na kaho”!

The boy migrated when he was in his late teens; the girl went there after marriage. So, all of this must have taken some practice.

Anyhow, after the initial gliding softly, everyone came to their senses and started doing the bhangra and the dandiya.

Eats the time to dhisco.


Global Bubble of the Revivalist

Maverick: Global Bubble of the Revivalist
by Farzana Versey
Covert, December 15-30

Those who left have it good. While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wants them to return home as “brain gain”, the right-wingers have been lauding them for precisely the same reason with an additional halo – the global revivalist.

In one of the fancy social satsangs at the altar of Mammon the luminaries wanted to know where Hindus figured on the world stage. There was no talk about India. It is precious, then, to talk about marauding Mughals and Christian missionaries. Does this not amount to merely following those notorious footsteps, the only difference being monetary power added to spiritual piffle?

Has anyone tried to understand how in those hundreds of years of occupation, India did not become a Muslim or a Christian nation? Those Hindus who converted to certain sects, like Bohras and Ismailis, are among the most educated and successful people in the country today.

In the world of the freshly-minted sophisticated anti-secularist, such details do not matter. To this mind the restoration of a hotel must be seen in the context of the Somnath temple which rose after each fall. It deviously disregards the fact that the rebuilding has been carried out by the management that has also generously set up a non- religious Trust to rehabilitate those who were affected in other areas as well. The global clock-turner is busy patting his back over restoration of places of worship and landmark sites, but there is absolutely no concern about resurrecting the ordinary citizen’s right to livelihood and dignity.

Listing the achievements of expatriates is typical of this tunnel vision. Of the few that become entrepreneurs or have prominent careers, there are thousands who perform ordinary tasks. Many have entered those western countries illegally or gone through agents after a lot of effort. Instead of wondering why this happens, this neo world citizen with a limited cultural baggage is basking in the reflected glory of achievers who had to go elsewhere to make their fortune and earn their fame because their homeland did not nurture their dreams.

The Knights and Nobel laureates refer to their Indian roots only when there is a bit of exotic drama required. How can they be considered a part of revivalism of ancient culture? Would they identify with the dubious idea of taking religion to new lands? They are on Forbes power list because of how much they influence society. Osama bin Laden is sharing space, too. If some build temples, then there are others like Swraj Paul who donate to the London Zoo. They pay huge sums to political parties in their adopted lands to get leverage for themselves and not their faith. It is quite simply business acumen and social opportunism at work. It has got nothing to do with keeping the flame of any potential Ram Rajya alive.

Yoga and levitating gurus is old hat and has little to do with healing powers and more to do with hype. It did not start with the new revivalists but old hippies. Being honoured and having festivals celebrated work as totems for ethnic minorities who may indeed possess talent. But, as Venkatraman Ramakrishnan made it amply clear, his “nationality is simply an accident of birth”. He would not want to be hailed as a global Hindu hero or be placed on the same pedestal as ashram evangelists.

In the excitement over the well-heeled, fossils of accruing mutual fund culture whose high-walled existence is no better than ghettos, the revivalist boasts that his religion is the only one that does not have a history of massacres. Loss of memory means ignoring the past of what some rulers did to demolish Jainism from South India between the 8th and 12th centuries, and the contemporary history of the Sikh carnage, the Mumbai riots and Gujarat genocide. To clothe these in the garb of a global phenomenon that has risen from the suffering of centuries is skulduggery and hypocrisy.

Perhaps it might do them well to ponder over a small fact that those Hindus who are today a part of the White House clique have been appointed by a half Muslim, half Christian.

Shall we call such resurrection a case of appeasement since delusional apocalypticism can only be a mirage?


Whose Euthanasia Is It, Anyway?

Dead Right

Whose Euthanasia Is It, Anyway?
by Farzana Versey
Counterpunch, December 21 2009

She held my hand in a firm grip the night before she died. The room where she lay in coma was airy and it was home. The doctors had given up on my maternal grandmother, but we had not. I would sit by her bedside and talk to her or just read; I was told that voices registered. She probably knew when her time was up when she gripped my arm. Early next morning I started my monologue again, touching her wrinkled skin and looking into her beautiful grey uncomprehending eyes. In the need to convey my warmth I did not realise that her body was cold. She was dead. Was it selfish love that would not let her go? She went anyway.

The reason for this personal anecdote is the Indian Supreme Court admitting an appeal to end the life of a woman lying in a lobotomised state for 36 years. There are medical, emotional and ethical issues here.

Aruna Shanbaug was a nurse at the KEM Hospital in Mumbai. On November 27, 1973, when she went to the basement after her shift, she was sexually assaulted by the sweeper Sohanlal Bartha Walmiki. He used a dog chain to strangle her, leading to loss of blood supply and oxygen to the brain. It debilitated her in so horrific a manner that she was rendered paralysed, blind and has been comatose for over three decades.

The plea to the court has asked it to direct the hospital to stop force-feeding her. A question arises out of this simple demand: Is she eating enough at all that the forced feeding would put an end to her life? She is subsisting on mashed food and chokes on liquids. Her body is skeletal, but she breathes. Perhaps it isn’t food alone that is keeping her alive. Why is there no clarity about how she should be relieved of her painful existence?

The lawyer asks, “Is not keeping the woman in this persistent vegetative state by force feeding violative of her right to live with dignity as guaranteed by Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution? She is beyond cure. Let the court inquire about what medical science has in store for her. It appears that there has been utter indifference of medical world towards her.”

* * *
The right to live with dignity is not merely a medical subject. The courts would have to look into other aspects of the idea of dignity. Since Aruna is not in a position to know whether her state lacks dignity, it would therefore follow that those responsible for her care ought to be granting her that dignity.

Years ago a doctor had spoken up for death by choice and said, “How many of us realise the meaning of euthanasia? It means a good death. We talk of ethics when we prolong a useless life, so where do ethics go when we carry out abortions? Even the foetus have life and we kill them happily just because it suits our convenience. Do we then pause to think that the foetus may have had a mind to live on, may have had a brain which was that of a genius? There may be thousands of Arunas in India and we keep them alive no matter what and incur massive expenses to keep a useless life ticking.”

After the reappearance of the case, there have been other points of view. Dr. Ravi Bapat, who was supposedly among the first of the team that responded to Aruna on the morning she was discovered lying under the stairway, is against the SC petition. “It is idiosyncrasy, no living cell ever wants to die…Aruna is like a mentally challenged person now. Would any parent of a mentally ill child move the court in a similar manner? It is sickening how every five years someone raises Aruna’s case just for publicity.”

Ironically, the only two parties who have not gained mileage out of this are her callous family, that did not have the means or the patience to see her alive as the symbol she was to become, and her doctor fiancé who after three years of caring for her realised that her case was closed and went on with his life.

That is what life is about – to make choices. There is no love that keeps her alive. Her family gave up on her; the rapist is free, and the hospital has kept her room locked for fear he may return. Is she in a position to give evidence?
It is crucial to point out that there is virtually no comment about the rapist. Reports mention that after his seven-year jail term he is working as a ward boy in a Delhi hospital. How do they know? Is someone in touch with him and for what reason? If he is using his real name, then were his new employers aware of his crime? He was sentenced for attempted murder and robbery – he made away with Aruna’s earrings. Why was no rape case pursued? Because he had sodomised her. It is rather strange that in a country where the law against homosexuality is only now being given a fresh look, this was not deemed as rape. Besides, sodomy is illegal in India. How did he get away with it?

* * *

In all these years whenever the ‘story’ was covered in the media, the emphasis was on Aruna and for the most part her fight in a locked hospital room, hunger, pain, soiled clothes, stiff immobile hands and legs, the voice beastly, the brain half dead. Today at 61, the routine continues. She whines, is still afraid of male voices; we get these same dispatches in graphic detail. Aruna’s helplessness is made to appear heroic.

This is not about a lone woman’s fight nor a miracle, for it neither uplifts the spirit nor her body. She does not even recognise that she has survived.

This is not the tale of a support system. The crime was committed by a hospital staffer in the hospital premises and the authorities have a reputation to uphold. There should instead be an urgent need to look into the conditions of public hospitals and also the general wards of some private hospitals. They are in a pathetic condition. With Aruna’s case, there ought to have been a greater need to examine the level of security. By cocooning her in a room, the authorities have got away without being answerable for such a lapse. They could have fought the case against the rapist who was their employee; they could have issued notices against him being employed anywhere else.

What use is a lifeless person when the perpetrator of the offence is free? Does it drive home a point at all, least of all about the goriness of such a gruesome act? Aruna is not seen as a rape victim but a caged human kept alive.

This is not a tale of sisterhood. The nurses have rallied around for professional reasons – it could have happened to any of them. Their compassion is based on a ‘special bond’, we are told. How is it possible? Most would be a new batch, younger women for whom she is merely a publicised character.

This is not at all a story about a spectacular beginning, a meaningful middle and a fitting denouement with a moral thrown in somewhere.

And that is alarming. No ethical questions about the crime and the system are asked. Once the courts grant her the right to die there will be demands to legalise suicide by those who feel their life is not dignified enough. There will be related issues where you may not ban books that tell you the easy ways in which to meet your end. You may not prevent a discussion by the Hemlock Society. And you may not raise eyebrows over the concept of assisted death.

In societies where penury itself is a sin and avarice a virtue, the prospect of such methods being legally manipulated by poverty-stricken families and greedy relatives is frightening.

Aruna Shanbaug needs a peaceful departure and it should have been done long ago, quietly and with dignity, and not until the story was sapped off its juice. She has suffered enough – first in the basement, then in bed and then relentlessly under the media glare. She may not be aware of the latter two, which makes it worse.

What right are we then talking about when she does not even have the consciousness to know how her life is being used?

Two questions

PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti has been denied a visa to visit Pakistan for an international conference in Islamabad “in view of the political turmoil in that country’’.

Is Pakistan concerned about her as a genuine Kashmiri leader, or as part of the Indian establishment, or as a sympathiser of the secessionist forces?

Why would the Taliban want to harm or kill her – what would they have against Kashmiris?

If they do so, then the bugbear of the Talibs are coming to harm ‘lesser’ folks does not hold true.

Or Pakistan under attack, literally and politically from outside forces, wants to clearly demarcate the two issues of Taliban and Kashmiri militancy. This would be parroting the US stand.

- - -

In the oft-repeated TV clipping of (Hemant) Karkare donning a bulletproof jacket on 26/11, it can be seen that there is a large area below his neck that is not covered by the jacket. According to policemen, this is because the jacket was not worn properly; had it been strapped higher, the area under the neck would not have been left exposed.

Are we being told that the ATS chief did not know how to wear his BP vest? TOI should mention the stature of these policemen who have pointed it out. This is careless.

What has the ‘area under the neck’ got to do here when we are being given a different story of his killing? Why this constant change of versions and no reportage on the inquiry of it missing?

Any agenda here?


Bare-ly at home

Do I have the right to walk around naked in my own house? Yes? No? Does someone who happens to see me in this state of undress have a right to file a case against me? Erick Williamson, a resident of Virginia, has been convicted because he was packing up some belongings in the buff in what is his house.

The cops, prosecutors and two witnesses are behind what I believe is a bizarre move.

Witness One: School librarian Joyce Giuliani was driving past his home when she heard some loud singing and turned to look. She saw Williamson standing naked directly behind a large picture window.

Witness Two: Yvette Dean was walking her 7-year-old son to school along a trail that runs by Williamson’s home. She heard a loud rattle, looked to her left and saw him standing naked, full frontal, in a side doorway. “He gave me eye contact,” she said, but otherwise made no gestures toward her or her son.

Both these observations happened within a matter of hours. It shows that this could be a one-off incident. That is besides the point, anyhow. The accusation is that he was not merely naked but was drawing attention to himself.

Imagine that a man is all dressed up in a tuxedo and he decides to hum a tune or make some other sounds in his own home; he could drop a glass or move a chair or even bang his head against a wall. Would these women who turned to look be offended? Technically, he is by their conjecture drawing attention to himself. What is the difference?

His naked body.

He rightly thinks this is an issue of personal freedom. Making eye contact with someone who is looking at you is not a crime. One might ask how a woman who is driving past notice the full nudity. Was she giving him the eye? He made no indecent gestures. Her son saw a man naked in his house. It is a natural state. He was not performing any act that might cause emotional damage to the child.

As Williamson said, “I think that being tried and found guilty of something like this is outrageous. I feel like I’m living in a fishbowl.”

The women say they saw more of him than they cared. There are several instances in everyday life where we see a lot more than we want. Switch on the telly and you have gross images of violence and stupidity. Walk down the street and you will find garbage heaps. You may hear pressure cooker whistle sounds and the smell of overpowering food at the neighbour’s. You could hear people quarrelling, things being smashed, songs being sung, and even some moans and groans if their walls are thin and the lovers next-door loud. Some of these one may complain about because they infringe on one’s space.

But if you are passing what is someone else’s private space and they are doing what they are doing without in anyway disturbing you, then tough luck if you find it offensive.

The two women even testified that they were not aroused! That’s good. At least they are upholding certain values of not letting their hormones overtake as they whoosh past in a car or walk their child to school.

Meanwhile, it might help if they did not get so turned on by sounds of someone singing or rattling.

Sunday ka Funda


Liberals and Fundamentalists

She is a blonde from Central America. Did she need to be stripped to her waist? As part of an armed gang of robbers, Alejandra Maria Torres could have been arrested. But a mob had gathered, torn off her blouse, poured gasoline over her and lit the match. And stood by to watch. (My apologies for using these pictures, but it is to make a point.)

This is not some backward tribal region. The mob has not been given a name; they are not called terrorists. This happened on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 in Guatemala City.

The figures for this year read: 219 people lynched; 45 of them died.

The lesson here is that cruelty has different dimensions.

The picture of the Afghan woman being shot dead for a ‘crime’ is a potent one.

Here, you can blame the religious law as practised by a bunch of fanatics. The enemy is visible. But has any religious group been indicted for the Guatemalan lynching? Why was the woman's physical humiliation necessary when the crime has no sexual dimension? This is a democracy we are talking about.

In most societies, it is the women who have to bear the brunt of religious laws. All religions have arisen due to wars and been sanctified as such – it could be battles on the ground or battles of the mind. The seeking of supremacy is at the core of religious credos. There are other moral values that come along, but who has the time for them? It is about laws, rituals and a convenient interpretation that grants the male special powers.

A Somali man was stoned for adultery and buried alive. The Daily Mail had the caption, ‘Begging for his life: Mohamed Ibrahim appeals to Islamic militants not to carry out the execution as he is buried in the ground as his villagers are forced to watch’.

This photograph is by Associated Press. Were they invited, too? Could they not have taken along or alerted the Human Rights organisations? Were they too forced to watch?

I would pose the same query to RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan)that holds copyright to the Afghan picture. There is no doubt that it works under extremely difficult situations with women in Afghanistan, but why the need to take those pictures? To show the world? Has the world helped in these civil issues? The world is interested in the behemoth of terrorism, not what happens to innocent men, women and children.

The Somali man in this picture does not seem to be begging and his persecutors appear to be talking him into getting buried. This is not to in anyway deny the reality as it happens. This does take place. There are a number of people ready to flex their muscles – weak idiots who do not care about religion but their own invincibility.

Besides, why was a man stoned for adultery? Isn’t this the sort of machismo that supposedly comes with the territory?

And what does one do about the Tiger Woods case? Does not the morality have its source in some early indoctrination?

On the flip side, I have been shocked at comments that say his wife should have known that when you marry a celebrity all this comes with the package and that she has now spoiled his career. The onus is on her. She should have chosen to remain a nanny or must take this in her stride.

Interesting how the liberals speak the language of the fundamentalists.

- - -

I recall that there was a column by an Indian feminist titled ‘Adam’s Rib’. I found it pretty stupid besides being regressive. Around the same time I had a column where I did rather cutting profiles of prominent men. I had called it ‘Eve’s Adam’...I guess I could spare some ribs!

Ajmal, Advani, Antony

Did any of you expect Kasab to tell the truth and admit to his role in the 26/11 attacks? No one did. Not even the prosecution or the judge. This was routine they had to go through and they did. Reports say that Kasab had come prepared. Of course, he would. And he did what he is best at – acting.

Do remember that he has been in prison with no access to handlers. His lawyer was forced to quit. For him to alter his statements must take a good deal of confidence or he knows that, as I have said often before, this case will be kept alive for a long time. And now with Headley and the FBI, he can take big risks. Either go down and become the lone martyr and keep the case simmering or get saved and keep the case simmering.

Simmering is the operative word. More trials. More questions. More paranoia.

He now says that it was the other terrorist who looks exactly like him behind the killings. The cops saw the bodies and unless they are badly disfigured this could be verified.

Unfortunately for us, the statements may appear like “tall claims” according to the prosecution, but he has got our law down pat.

  • His earlier confession was made due to fear
  • Witnesses can be tutored
  • Cops are not supposed to be present at the identification parade
  • Anyone could have identified him because that picture was published all over the world

He is smart. Newspaper reports are not:

The core of Kasab’s implausible story was that he had been first picked up by the “local police at Juhu Chowpatty’’. “I had a passport and a Sony Ericsson mobile phone. Many youth from my village in Pakistan had earlier come to Mumbai. I was roaming around, thinking of going for a movie and looking for a place to stay. The policemen saw that I was a Pakistani and took me to a police station and later handed me over to the Crime Branch,’’ he told the judge.

Why is any of this implausible? People can get picked up at Juhu Chowpatty by the cops, especially if they look aimless. He says the police saw his passport and a mobile phone. If there was a real passport and he had not yet reported himself to the nearest police station then he would get arrested.

The law says that giving false accounts cannot implicate him. But the Crime Branch knows whether there was a passport and cellphone, and the External Affairs Ministry can clearly come out with the assertion that India, like Pakistan, does not issue tourist visas to the citizens of the other country.

Of all the major issues, the judge told him that a 10-year-old girl who had been shot at CST had identified him in court. To which Kasab shot back, “She’s just a kid; whatever they tutor her to say, she will repeat in court.”

What did you expect? What did anyone expect from the final evidence?

The case is far from over.

Side lite: A few days ago a report mentioned that Kasab now eats vegetarian food and does not demand meat. The reason they say is he is now unsure whether the meat is halal. If a man can throw tantrums and make demands, he would jolly well ask how they butchered the animal.

- - -

There is fresh news about the bullet-proof jacket.

Apparently the consignment was tested in 2002 from a 100 feet range by an AK-47 rifle. The bullet pierced the jacket but got stuck nicely inside causing only a dent on the steel plate. It was given the A-okay.

As reported in the TOI:

Col (Retd) M P Choudhary, a veteran of Operation Bluestar, who later trained Mumbai Police commandos, says this is misleading. “This jacket is unlikely to have a trauma pack to absorb the power of the bullet and in that case the ribs of the man wearing it would be shattered by the impact and the shock would kill him,’’ he said. In tests by the army, this is what has happened to goats strapped with such jackets.

However, police sources say, at the time when they were purchasing the jackets, they had no idea that one day they would be used against terrorists. “When Mumbai Police issued a tender for the jackets in December 2001, gangsters were on our mind,’’ said a senior police officer.

Even if one assumes that the Police Force did not think it would have to deal with terrorists, it still leaves the question about who can use what sort of arms. Gangsters have access to the best weapons. In fact, they sell them to terrorists. Also, does one assume that while militants were infiltrating India the Mumbai cops were supposed to believe that nothing would ever happen? It need not have been an attack. It could have been an encounter. We have had riots, we have had bomb blasts.

This attitude is way too laidback. Do we have the arms? Is our strategy one of defence or offence?

And why is there such a noise by the establishment about the BP jackets now when they say that ATS chief Hemant Karkare was shot at in the neck? Talk about obsessions.

Side lite: Defence Minister A.K.Antony has reportedly reduced the troops in Jammu and Kashmir because:

“Whenever we feel the situation has improved or is improving we will further reduce the visibility and presence of the Army in the state... it is because of the presence of the army that we have been able to counter terrorism in the state.”
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States of America, said:

“I really do believe that ‘de-tensioning’ of (Kashmir) border is absolutely critical to long term stability in that region. And it is going to take outreach on the part of both countries (India and Pakistan) ."

So, has the situation already improved or are we going to improve (de-tension) it by withdrawal of troops? Since when have the US military personnel got a say in these matters?

- - -

On another note: Goodbye and Hello Again

The BJP, the party with a strict protocol, has changed its constitution and made place for a Chairman. L.K. Advani is now no more Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha; Sushma Swaraj takes over.

Advani will be mentor. They need him. He is the face of the BJP.

The party that has dissed everyone for pseudo-secularism will have to indulge in a bit of jugglery:

But with the leaders of Opposition in both Houses and BJP president being Brahmins, the party will have to work out its caste balance.

Here we are really talking. The BJP’s symbol, Lord Rama, was a Kshatriya. Ravana was a Brahmin.



The Bangladesh India Forgot

Of Nations and Notions
The Bangladesh India Forgot
by Farzana Versey
Countercurrents, December 16, 2009

On December 16, a nation was cut off from a nation which was formed out of a larger nation. The second, Pakistan, was essentially a notion that took off from the larger idea that was India.

Today, as Indian states decide to lead microcosmic lives and even the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati, believes it will make things more manageable if her state is divided, the need for Bangladesh stands nullified as an ideology. It was protesting the language issue, the cultural dissonance with an Islamic Republic. Neither of these aspects has given it a distinct identity other than a name. In fact, Bangladesh has its own terror networks and the Jama’at-ul-Mujahideen is being examined by the Intelligence Agencies for its role in bomb blasts and its ties with local groups in India. There is a suspicion that it may also have been involved in the Mumbai attacks in November, 2008. Its avowed aim is to replace the current state of Bangladesh with an Islamic state based on Shariah. Things do come full circle.

Those who rue the partition of India do not appear to have the same reservations about the splitting up of Pakistan. It is no secret that India was an active participant in the civil war between East and West Pakistan. It took almost two good decades after the creation of Pakistan for its Bengali population to realise that they were indeed different. Interestingly, those on the Indian side of what is still West Bengal looked down upon their Eastern connections, quite unlike the memories people in Punjab and the northern states of India have for Lahore or other parts of the Punjab belt of Pakistan.

On the face of it, it did appear to be a people’s movement. As writer-activist-politician, Dr. Enver Sajjad, told me, “If I were Mujibur Rehman, I would have said that the country was created with 51 % of our votes, so we have the legitimate right to call ourselves Pakistan.”

ujibur Rehman, leader of the Awami League, had a different subtext in his mind and went through the Jinnah-Nehru sort of parallel ego trip with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. He wanted to be Prime Minister. Bhutto, who was the democrat with ostensibly no interest in parochial politics, was the architect of the Language Bill and the confirmation of the nation as an Islamic Republic. While he managed to sneak in Sindh into the national Pathan-Punjabi psyche and made use of the Mohajirs from the Urdu belt of India, the Bengalis did not fit into any scheme.

The simmering discontent got shape and form when a quasi government was formed with a war force of freedom fighters – Mukti Bahini. The Bangladesh Liberation War was an Indian war. Indira Gandhi was moving out of her father’s shadow. There was the background of the 1965 war with Pakistan. This time it had an added halo of concern for the underdog. In a battle that lasted a fortnight, 93,000 Pakistani troops surrendered. Indian prisoners of war were forgotten by their own prime minister. Indira was hailed as Goddess Durga.

K.F.Rustamji who founded the Border security Force has been quoted as saying, “The BSF boys started assisting the Mukti Fauj (later Bahini) in causing subversion and sabotage deep inside East Pakistan and even in district headquarter towns, where cash and weapons were looted and made over to the government of Bangladesh.”

The only instructions Indira Gandhi gave was: “Do what you like, but don’t get caught.”

The espionage had begun much before the actual skirmish on the ground. Could a war have been averted? The American and Russians entered the fray as more than observers. It became a big event primarily because India came into the picture. The call for war was given by Indira Gandhi. In 'The British, The Bandits and The Bordermen' there are detailed references to how the BSF played a role in not only the formation of the Bangladesh provisional government, but also in framing its constitution and selecting its national flag and national anthem.

What happened to the Bangladesh dream of language, region, democracy and, most important of all, independence? Was freedom merely a territorial dream?

What did Bangladesh get out of this? Thousands dead. Hundreds raped. An exodus of ten million people who sought refuge in the North Eastern Indian states and West Bengal.

Over three decades later, they are still seen as refugees. Many moved out from these border areas. You will find quite a few in Delhi.

Zuleikhabi works as a domestic help in four houses at Chittranjan Park. She does not dwell on home and sees no difference. She has not heard about Taslima Nasreen, although she does remember Tagore.

The Bard of Bengal brooks no territorial boundaries, his golden boat is laden for all who clutch at the stray straws of a life untrammelled, yet pregnant with possibility.

Zuleikha knows she is not wanted by the political parties, she hears about it at street corners where the menfolk congregate in groups, their common destinies binding them together for a few minutes of respite. She displays a rare pragmatism when she says, “Political parties everywhere do not want the poor. We were not wanted back home, too. But the people here do not seem to mind our presence. My memsaabs like my work and since they are Bengalis there is a common culture.”

Isn’t there resentment against them in the already overpopulated slums? “Here also people understand. We share our poverty. And many of them are refugees too – they have come from Bihar, UP…everyone is seeking shelter.”

The middle-class residents of the area support them on humanitarian grounds. As one of them said, “Many of them are staying here for years, and if we start shunting people out, then there are the Tibetans too. We fought the Bangladesh War for political reasons but now these people have come to look upon us as saviours. If the government is so concerned then they must try and stop the influx instead of letting Opposition parties make political capital out of it.”

Apparently, when the BJP was campaigning against them, the local Bengalis came out to protect the outsiders. As one academician put it, “With us, secularism and parochialism are one and the same thing. We will support each other in any part the globe.”

A project called ‘Citizenship, Identity and Residence of Immigrants in Delhi Slums’ by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties had revealed that workers of the BJP and Shiv Sena had been active in identifying Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants in selected slums. “The police conducted frequent late night raids in some bastis (slum localities) where many people suspected of being Bangladeshi nationals were taken to the police station…The active role of selected political parties in the identification and deportation of Bangladeshi immigrants, recognised for their bias against religious minorities, is very disturbing.”

Jaffer is oblivious to these wheels within wheels. He only knows that occasionally an inexplicable fear overtakes him. “Though there is nothing to be afraid of. What do we have that we must fear losing? Clothes? Vessels? Belongings? Nothing. But there is something...that feeling of not having anything to call our own. I came here in 1975 as a child and even today after 30 years I know that we can be thrown out.”

According to Reena Bhadhuri, an expert on Islam, “These are starving people trying to make a meagre living. How can they be connected to Al Qaeda and the Pakistani intelligence agencies?” On the other hand, there is acceptance of Hindu infiltrators in the North East. The deputy minister for national security during the BJP regime had agreed to give them special treatment. “If they have come here illegally, it may be justified because of the hostility they face in Bangladesh. Some distinction will have to be kept in mind.”

It is such doublespeak and double standards on the part of both India and Pakistan that have left Bangladesh as a fractured nation. It has no identity. Societies that are left with too many histories don’t think about the future. The future subjugates them before they can get there.


A Bloody Nose for Bloomers?

A couple of days after he had drawn women’s undies, Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi looked like someone back from battle.

The two events may not be connected, but it is interesting to find some connection.

Milan, December 13: At a political rally the PM is left with a fractured nose, two teeth knocked off and bloody cuts on his lips after a man hurled a miniature replica of Milan’s gothic cathedral at him.

After the attack

Brussels, December 11: At a meeting to discuss climate change, the Italian premier draws women’s inner wear and passes the papers around to other heads of state. It causes some embarrassment, some anger and some amusement.

The Daily Mail shows a sample of Victorian underwear

For a moment, imagine you are a world leader attending such a high-level meeting to discuss climate change. The pieces of paper have doodles that include the Egyptian loin cloth, Victorian bloomers, French satin panties, thongs, G-strings.

What would you do?

I think I'd see it as a symbolic representation of how women coped not only with social mores but also with how they chose to cover up intimate parts of their body. It might seem like stretching it a bit, but from the warm Egyptian clime to the cold English one, the way these undergarments were worn does give inkling into the climate.

As a moral issue, one could ask two questions:

  1. Why did he choose women’s wear and not men’s? It is simple. He is not interested in men and men as nurturers of the womb of the earth do not have any totem value.
  2. Does it become a head of state to indulge in such flippant gestures? It does not, but he could have sketched and not passed them around and then it would have been a secret and they’d imagine he was deeply interested in the talks that were taking place. Ethically, to mislead is wrong. It is quite probable that he was merely revealing the complete uselessness of such summits, and if it comes from someone who is rich and powerful, then it does send out the signal that the world needs to look deeper (and no pun this) instead of merely talking heads.

I am quite certain that were he asked to draw his own underwear he would have gladly done so.

How does it in any way connect with his bloodied face later? Some people were shouting out calling the PM a clown. Clowns are laughed at by people who see them as entertainment or for being silly. They are not seen as vicious enough to be physically harmed.

Was the man who lunged at him a moralist? He has been described as someone who has a history of mental health problems. It could be that he does not like Berlusconi’s politics. It could be that he does not approve of the scandals his PM is involved in. It could be that news of his drawing those thongs and things really was the final straw and he used a Biblical image, that too a medieval one rooted deeply in a spiritual union with god.

He did not use a camera tripod, the way another attacker had done several years ago when Berlo was less tainted.

In both instances the instruments made a pointed statement, and were phallic symbols, if one may say so.


My name is Schezuan Khan!

Now when you see a Chinese face, think of your great-great-great-ad nauseum grandparents. The hakka noodles could well be Indian.

This is revealed by a study ‘Mapping Human Genetic History in Asia’ which concurs that the human population originally came from Africa. It disproves something based on fossil data. It seems like a nice thing to do given that we have people willing to play fossils.

A hundred thousand years ago the humans in Africa figured out they had to look around a bit. They were focussed on this country, like the world’s eyes are on India stuff going on now. I can imagine them saying that they were moving because of the fertile soil, the amazing culture, the opportunities, and the natural beauty. The canny ones might have even thought this was reincarnation the moment they spotted some thick foliage just like back home.

Then, due to some genetic jugglery they began to show differences. Probably the umbilical cord was being cut off by twisting and turning. They started pronouncing R as L and used sticks to eat. In one of the first uprisings that possibly took place in unrecorded history, they decided to leave. They had to walk for days in the sun, which perhaps lends them the marked features of rather small eyes slanted to avoid the glare. All races have some distinguishing physical aspects. Such as Indians nodding their heads by tilting them towards left shoulder and then the right one at a 30 degree angle to convey yes, no, whatever.

To return to the early departing population, they settled in what came to be East Asian countries. What I cannot figure out from this study is how these nations were already there as prêt-a-porter countries. Were they called China, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines? Why did the first group go to Thailand? Was the place tough on them and is that why they mastered the art of massage? Does the thriving business in Bangkok having anything to do with the lessons from the Kama Sutra they imbibed? And why did the second lot move to Malaysia? Are today’s Pakistanis following Malaysian Islam rather than the Saudi one they are accused of?

Why do Singaporeans have strict penal charges against spitting on the roads? Are they trying to get rid of their Indian roots of spitting any and everywhere? Is the Japanese penchant for making small things and being minimalist a dissenting response to the ostentation of Indian ethos?

These are not questions that engage the 90 scientists who took a sample of 1,928 unrelated individuals from 73 populations in 10 countries. They are more concerned about how this research “is also significant for understanding migratory pattern of human history and furthering the research in medicine. It has great potential for collaboration with these countries in finding treatment to many diseases like flu, AIDS and other pandemics”.

So, if you have a bit of fever and are coughing madly, don’t just gulp down that sweet syrup and suck on lozenges. Think of how the Japs would do it. I assume the fact that they bow on any given occasion is a halfway touching of the feet gesture by the majority population of India; it also probably derives from how they coped with clearing their lungs. You know, bend a little and the kho-kho-kho subsides.

All your ailments will now be seen in the light of how they are faring. If you are about to faint, then make sure to ask them to pass some smelling ajinomoto, please.

- - -

An Indian has been chosen as one of the top ten foreign heroes in the past 100 years for contribution to China. This report came in before the research was made public.

Dr Dwarkanath Kotnis treated Chinese soldiers during the Sino-Japanese war of 1938. Mao Zedong was mighty impressed and when the doctor died, he said, “The army has lost a helping hand, the nation a friend. Let’s always bear in mind his internationalist spirit.”

How internationalist China is we all know, especially during those days, but he probably felt some tug of a common heritage. I think these researchers must be right.

Incidentally, Dr Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani was a film based on the life story of the doc. I am not sure how much of it was true, but in the celluloid version he cured the plague, was captured by the Japanese, fell in love with a Chinese girl and died, because of the plague not the girl. V Shantaram enacted the title role and Jayshree played the Chinese girl. All same-same, no?

Chith Dole - Dr Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani


Mahatma Gandhi and Lindsay Lohan

Mahatma Gandhi is an all-purpose sales guy. Mont Blanc pens know that and decided to have an imprint of his image on their limited edition fountain pen in 18-carat solid gold. This story was reported two months ago and has resurfaced because a PIL has been filed in India against the retailers.

I would not want it for the simple reason that it is cheesy and I can’t afford it. But the arguments against it are rather amusing.

$23,000, they say, is the lifetime income of the poor in India.

Rich Indians buy Swarovski crystals and Gucci bags. They do not calculate how much the poor are worth.

One of those spokesperson types said, “This pen is really funny. Gandhi would say it should be tossed in the trash or, better, sold off to pay for water and power for the poor. Gandhi would have been ashamed.”

Nope. Gandhi lived with industrialists and he knew they manufactured expensive goods. And we also knew that people commemorate heroes after they are dead. He did not ask the rich when he was alive to give up anything for the poor.

His great-grandson, who got a neat cut, it is said, had a different take: “I consider the Mont blanc pen their acknowledgment of the greatness of Gandhi. They are doing it the only way they know how. His writing implement was his greatest tool.”

I thought non-violence and swadeshi (self-reliance and abjurance of foreign goods) was. He delivered lectures and spoke a lot. He did write but that is hardly any justification for this pricey little thing. And it is limited edition, accessible to very few.

This business of an India on the move is getting on my nerves. We were always a materialistic society; some sold products, some services and some spirituality. Almost half of the population lives below the poverty line (about $1.25 a day). They don’t care about Mont Blanc or any pen because most are illiterate. And they pretty much do not care about Gandhi.

We want to purr about some big cats making it big, then fine. Let them flash that pen around too.

It is aesthetically quite unappealing and would require great gumption to expose bad taste. It won’t transform them into Gandhi clones. Or Gandhi abusers. Or people who like quoting Gandhi because it sounds like such an awesome thing to do.

So, here is one: “Capital as such is not evil; it is its wrong use that is evil. Capital in some form or other will always be needed.”

- - -

Now, we come to the other great marketing delight. Lindsay Lohan is in India to make a documentary on human trafficking. She tweeted: “Over 40 children saved so far... Within one day's work... This is what life is about... Doing THIS is a life worth living!!!”

Sure. I am sure it will keep her clean for a while. But did she have to sound like she is at some game keeping track of the goals scored? Is it all in a day’s work? Do we blame Twitter, the medium, for making everything seem so simplistic and easy? And why Lindsay? What was the BBC thinking? Role model?

Oh, and here’s a quote from her repertoire, too: “How can you not like Britney Spears?”


Ground Zero’s New Heroes?

Some might see it as a great move. I think it is one more sissy attempt at tolerance and reaching out. Religion is the culprit.

There is the World Trade Centre and two blocks away is the Burlington Coat factory. On 9/11, one of the planes crashed through two of its empty floors. For eight years it lay deserted. Things are different now. As the New York Times reported:

“But for months now, out of the public eye, an iron gate rises every Friday afternoon, and with the outside rumblings of construction at ground zero as a backdrop, hundreds of Muslims crowd inside, facing Mecca in prayer and listening to their imam read in Arabic from the Koran.”

I would truly like to take some quotes from the NYT to display just how puppy sweet can be bone-chewing wicked. Look at the catch phrases: out of the public eye, hundreds of Muslims crowd inside, facing Mecca in prayer, listening to their imam, read in Arabic from the Koran.

Of course, they will face Mecca and the Koran is written in Arabic and hey, dude, you can’t get an investment banker to preach and if he does in his spare time, he would be in his capacity as imam. I thought the NYT would know.

Apparently, this Friday ritual has a greater vision for

“an Islamic center near the city’s most hallowed piece of land that would stand as one of ground zero’s more unexpected and striking neighbors”

Most hallowed? And why is it unexpected to have a Muslim centre in the neighbourhood? The answer regarding the proximity “where a piece of the wreckage fell” comes from Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the cleric leading the project, when he says it

“sends the opposite statement to what happened on 9/11. We want to push back against the extremists”

These clerics ought to realise that in their enthusiasm to work up this pusillanimous business of peace they are further giving credence to stereotypes. What was the statement of 9/11 that can have an opposite one? Terrorists also pray and take the name of god, whichever stripe they are of. How can they push back terrorism?

The idea is as sick as those selling bits of wreckage soon after. It is sick to use a space as a statement. It is frightening that people of religion force those who practise their faith privately to become answerable to society even as citizens.

Acknowledging the possibility of a backlash from those opposed to a Muslim presence at ground zero, Joan Brown Campbell, director of the department of religion at the Chautauqua Institution and former general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ USA, said:

“Building so close is owning the tragedy. It’s a way of saying: ‘This is something done by people who call themselves Muslims. We want to be here to repair the breach, as the Bible says.’ ”

Oh dear. What does this mean? Why should New York Muslims who probably lead regular lives have to own up to a tragedy? Far worse is her quoting from the Bible and making the differences more palpable, a ‘you show me yours, I’ll show you mine’ kind of juvenile attempt at religious one-upmanship.

A few years ago when Benjamin Matthew Williams killed a gay couple outside a town in California he used the Bible as his inspiration:

“I’m not guilty of murder, I’m guilty of obeying the laws of the creator.”

The proposed centre is basing itself on a Jewish centre, and they want an interfaith dialogue. It is supposed to convey that these Muslims are willing to play ball with anyone who’s able. This rubbish about cultural give and take just does not work. What is cultural about people getting together under one roof and praying and everyone commenting about how they face Mecca and learn Arabic? Culture is what you do and not which holy book you read.

This is fairly prime real estate and the Centre might end up making quite a bit of money by getting brainwashed devotees to pay up and own up the tragedy and feel good about being, well, good. Sharif El-Gamal, chairman and chief executive of Soho Properties, of course, says:

“What happened that day was not Islam.”

So? Why does it have to be stated everytime? Almost 3000 people were killed by a handful. There is absolutely no reason to be on a permanent guilt trip.

Chances of this place becoming one to avoid are high or one that will be seen as another zoo where wild animals look kind of sweet behind those cages.

Tolerance? Bah!


What Tiger Woods Told Me

Everyone is counting his conquests. Here is one side, and a flip side, and then the flip the flip side. This could be the flop side.

It goes something like this: Tiger is of mixed race and it is a racial issue. Tiger was the good boy and he let us down. Tiger should have chosen the women with care. Tiger has every right to do what he wants as long as he plays golf. Tiger is being blackmailed. Tiger married a gold digger.

I thought it best to interview the man himself.

Do you think the problem is because you are like…er…Blackish?

“Green and black go well together, don't they?”

Like the grass is greener on the other side?

“Hockey is a sport for white men. Basketball is a sport for black men. Golf is a sport for white men dressed like black pimps.”

That’s pretty demeaning. I mean, why would white men dress like black pimps, and what about black pimps tells them apart from white ones and does golf come in, anyway?

“I get to play golf for a living. What more can you ask for - getting paid for doing what you love.”

Umm…you get paid for getting yourself what you are supposed to be getting for others?

"If I have more wins than anybody else and win more majors than anybody else in the same year, then it's been a good year."

What aspect of this love do you like best?

“I want to be what I've always wanted to be: dominant.”

Dominance can make you selfish but not self-reliant. You need to kind of look around…

“And I don't cook, either. Not as long as they still deliver pizza.”

Pizza is junk food. How much is too much? I know it satiates the appetite. Is that all?

“…you can characterize it and describe it however you want, but I have a love and a passion for getting that ball in the hole and beating those guys.”

So, who are the guys you want to beat?

“As a kid, I might have been psycho, I guess, but I used to throw golf balls in the trees and try and somehow make par from them. I thought that was fun.”

Mistaking the woods for the trees, eh? What does that teach you?

“You can always become better.”

But you obviously are good. Great, in fact.

“I did envisage being this successful as a player, but not all the hysteria around it off the golf course.”

It has happened. You are there. There are guys envious of you. They don’t care whether it is cocktail waitresses or nannies or TV presenters…

“If you are given a chance to be a role model, I think you should always take it because you can influence a person's life in a positive light, and that's what I want to do. That's what it's all about.”

You think all this is positive?

“It will always be the ball and me.”

Ah, so you are singularly blessed.

- - -

The quotes are real and have been used here in a different context only for reasons of parody and not to malign anyone. Not even golf.

Heil Obama, the War President

The Obama administration is turning up the pressure on Pakistan to fight the Taliban inside its borders, warning that if it does not act more aggressively, the US will use considerably more force on the Pakistani side of the border to shut down Taliban attacks on US forces in Afghanistan.

Superb. The US sends its troops inside Afghanistan to help the regime to fight the Taliban.

There is fighting and US forces are killed too.

Pakistan is fighting its own Taliban.

The US is now saying it will use force to shut down those attacks on its soldiers in Afghanistan.

What are we missing here?

It is a truly duh moment.

If his troops are there to fight the Taliban, then why can they not take on the ones that come from the border?

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As you already know Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel peace prize. He is set to receive it later this week. Guess what?

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, “He is accepting the Nobel Peace Prize as a war President.” After the decision to send 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan he will also mention it in his speech.

I have no clue what a war president is. One waging war or one waging war against war or one who has been caught in a war or one who has inherited it? Does this not reduce the very idea of the peace prize? True, precedents are there of people at war receiving the prize, but to go there and say, look, I am sending troops, however, it is all good and yet I take responsibility, so I accept this award as the war president on behalf of the American people – is this okay?

Should he be speaking on behalf of the American people at all? I know this is a hypothetical scenario. He may accept it on his own. And the American people will be left with the baby and the bathwater and those plastic duckies.


There is nothing like an Indian Muslim PM

Why should anyone want to know how long it will take for India to have a Muslim prime minister? How does it matter?

Some student from Aligarh Muslim University asked this to Rahul Gandhi; he used the term ‘wazir-e-azam’ to make the Muslimness stand out. Stupid.

I am happy with the way Rahul responded:

“Merit is the only password for the top job in the country, religion is no qualification. What will clinch the issue of one’s suitability (for PM) is one’s competence. Other factors are not just secondary, but insignificant. Let me tell you that even when you do have a Muslim prime minister, he will be a prime minister because he is the most capable person.”

Absolutely. It does not matter that merit is often not the criterion; there is nepotism, there is dynasty, there are mai-baaps waiting with protégées tugging at their dhoti-sherwani-saree. Yet, it is an important statement and it is time people stopped posing such queries. What does one expect from a Muslim PM, anyway?

S/he has to follow the Constitution, has to be answerable to the party General Secretary, has to do Diwali patakhas and Eid iftaar and as a sidelight add some Christmas Santa act and Sikh stuff and whatever it is that Buddhists and Jains do. In effect, be a part-time kafir, if you follow the rule books as interpreted by some rule-book types. After all this fancy dress competition, you make the rounds of various dead people’s graves, place flowers, and look sombre. Then put on an international face and go to summits where you make India sound like a global superpower, and add some concern about the environment and terrorism; usually it is the same thing if you follow Obama and not Al (I mean Gore, not Capone).

You return home and deal with the saffron rightwing, who will say you are going green. The jamaati rightwing will expect you to be jamaat type. Then the PM will hold forth on secularism this and secularism that. The world will say, look, look, India has a Muslim PM. We will be called a real democracy, while Wazir-e-whatever has no clue about little bastis, unless it is election time and one snotty Dalit kid is placed on her/his lap. Back to the jeep, Mossie begum/saab will ask for sanitiser. Some enthusiastic bloke will whisper if it has to be halal. PM will be in a fix so someone will bring out ittar-soaked wet wipes. Everyone will applaud secular India, secular PM, secular people. When what really is happening is that it is the religions, stupid. So, cut it out.

We had a Muslim President who happily signed the Emergency edict. (Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed during Indira Gandhi’s time.) Corrupt people in power, spineless fellows will remain just that. Their faith should be relegated to the private domain. It has no place in the public sphere at all.

Therefore, thumbs up to Rahul. Although he kind of tempered it by promising “there would be 30 young Muslim faces in the political centrestage in five years”. Why? How will they suddenly spring out from the merit quota?

And why must they be referred to as Muslims at all? The day we stop adding such tags in public life, we can say we have truly grown up as a society and a polity.

And the US hawks are warning us...

Do we need an American to deliver a lecture on “terrorism and threat to India”?

Michael Chertoff, US security expert and former secretary of Homeland Security from 2005-2009 when the US was the biggest threat to many nations, is sounding alarm bells about Mumbai-like attacks.

“In Mumbai attacks, we have seen evolving the tactic of using weapons and bombs together in a commando like operation. Such attacks are likely to happen more and the challenge before everybody is to be able to deal with them.”

If they are likely to happen before anybody is able to deal with them, then why is he barfing about it? I honestly don’t get it. You know how it is going to work and yet you cannot deal with it?

“There are safe havens which are being used by terrorists to plan and organise strikes. Afghanistan was one such haven after 9/11. The frontier areas of Pakistan and Somalia too are proving to be such havens for terrorism.”

If that is so, then what about the local boys who bomb tube stations?

Chertoff admitted that while al Qaida is a much weaker force now than it was in 2001 and that it no longer has its earlier “command and control system’’ it has been able to rebuild itself to an extent in Pakistan. He said that it also coordinates with groups like LeT. He, however, said that India had to exercise extreme caution in dealing with terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

Great. Now Al Qaeda is weaker and it has found a new home. You know why? Because he is complimenting Singapore and Saudi Arabia for checking “elements of radicalisation and alter the conditions on the ground”. I have said it before: America will not touch Saudi Arabia.

And then he has the audacity to warn India about Pakistan – something we do not need to be told – but, please note, there is no mention of Kashmir. None. He harps on the Mumbai-like attacks because he is connecting it to 9/11 and 9/11 is all that the US will remember.

Apparently, they have now developed the capability “to detect radioactive and other dangerous substances”. Had they possessed this earlier “at least 15 of the 19 who executed 9/11 would have been caught in the planning stage”.

I don’t know what the other four would have been doing for Mr Chertoff and his apparatus not to be able to get to them. Like are those blokes one up, have more radioactive thingies? The biggest superpower’s big security man is saying this. And then he is lecturing us? Those terrorists in their Versace tees must be laughing their heads off in those radioactive substances.

What the real deal here is to enlist the private sector. From all accounts it is only the private sector that knows how to use biometrics. Very cunningly he is talking about “layered defences”, which means outsourcing security. What private sector is he talking about? Indigenous?

Like we have a company that is really smart and detects this stuff and when some attack is about to take place, what happens? The Intelligence Bureau gets a whiff of some radioactive substance, calls up Private Sector and says, hey, we got a problem, get all your equipment quick and we will find those guys? Or it just buys off the stuff from the private companies, which means kickbacks, and the luxury to lay the blame on them and the government can say it was all faulty. A case will go on for years and years, by which time the attacks would have taken place, and I am only quoting Mr. Foreign Security Top Guy Who Lectures Us.

Or, does the United States want to play parddnerr and set up some franchise here of its biometric department so we can get those fellows?

Why do we have to listen to all this? It sounds like some latest designer trends that we follow blindly…like purple is the colour of the season when we don’t even have that goddamn season in this country. Get real. And quit India if you are lookin' for a stake here.

We are full up. So, thanks, but no thanks.


Excuse me, Mr. President

Barack Obama’s plans are those of a man in a hurry to divert attention from issues back home. Clinton did it. Bush did it. He is doing it. The American tax payer will be shelling out $30 million in the first year for something s/he has no clue about. Is this revenge for 9/11? Prevention of another 9/11?

No. 30,000 more troops will go into Afghanistan so that Americans forget about their problems and feel good. There is more:

The President vowed to start bringing American forces home from the strife-torn country by mid-2011, saying the US could not afford and should not have to shoulder an ‘‘open-ended commitment’’.

Has anyone asked the United States of America to send troops? Is this a UN initiative? How does America know that by 2011 it will be fine to move out? What are its plans? It is time Mr. Obama stopped talking as though it is a magnanimous gesture and the US will suffer. Cannot afford? Of course, it cannot. It has to take care of its own economy, but since that is a problem area the word ‘afford’ married to ‘strife-torn’ works like magic.

It cannot be a close-ended commitment and has to be open-ended unless there are specific plans. How can he promise to bring “this war to a successful conclusion”? Which war is he talking about? The one that has US drones? Or the one that is a civil war in which the US has no place? Or the one it is fighting in its mind?

Obama set out a strategy seeking to reverse Taliban gains in large parts, increase pressure on Afghanistan to build its own military capacity and an effective government and step up attacks on the Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

The Taliban is also in Pakistan, which he does not speak about. The Al Qaeda is all over the place, but Pakistan is good enough. So, what is this talk about helping Afghanistan build its military capacity?

Defence secretary Robert Gates has done the defence job:

“It is neither necessary nor feasible to create a modern, Western-style Afghan nation-state. Nor does it entail counterinsurgency from one end of Afghanistan to the other. We will not repeat the mistakes of 1989, when we abandoned the country only to see it descend into civil war, and then into Taliban hands.”

Just who does Mr Gates think he is? Does he know that Afghanistan has a long history and has survived many marauders? What does modern mean? I have said it before. Iraq was a modern state. Iran was a modern state. Until the interference started and the religious guys decided to take over control. The insurgency is not from Afghanistan but from outside, so the counter-insurgency will come from them.

The US abandoned the country and left it in the hands of the Taliban? Geez. The Afghans were fighting alongside the Russians against the Mujahideen, the holy warriors, who had the help of the United States of America!

Please, Mr. Obama, history is inconvenient truth. We just have to live with it.


That little sigh

That intangible something. Kaheen yeh woh tau nahin…I must admit it is not great lyrics; quite pedestrian, in fact. No passion, no sublimity. Yet…I think I like the thought of the thought springing from a mere sigh.

Zara Si Aahat Hoti Hai To Dil Sochta Hai

* Movie: Haqeeqat
* Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
* Music Director: Madan Mohan
* Lyricist: Kaifi Azmi
* Actors/Actresses: Dharmendra, Priya Rajvansh
* Year: 1964

HIV installed

Before - unknown volunteers

After - socialite Parmeshwar Godrej with her American designer of the AIDS awareness installation

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Article to follow later.


Lindt it or lump it?

Minarets don’t really float my boat, but to ban them? That too in Switzerland by a referendum from the people. 57.5 percent voted in favour. It has been opposed by the Swiss government, parliament, business groups and churches but given the thumbs up by the Right wing Swiss People’s Party.

Here are a few issues raised and it reveals the hollowness that has come to apply to political discourses:

There are only four minarets among the tens of thousands of church spires in Switzerland but the SVP campaigned against them as a symbol of Islamic political influence, which it claimed could eventually undermine the nation's Christian values and democracy.

Since when has Switzerland become a Christian nation? Values cannot be politicised. Minarets do not stand for political influence. Muslims constitute about five percent of the population, and they are mostly from East Europe which can hardly claim to be symbols of Islam.

The spires are traditionally used to make the call for prayers at mosques but Swiss noise control regulations have already stopped them from being used for that purpose; instead, they became an architectural symbol of the Islamic faith. The ban on minarets does not stop the building of mosques, and Muslims were still free to practise their faith.

This is weird. A muezzin could shout from atop a dome as well. And what about church bells? Personally, I am against the call to the faithful at unearthly hours and would rather they invest in alarm clocks, but to use this as a stick to beat a community with is ridiculous.

Embarrassed government spokesmen agreed that the ban would "serve the interests of extremist circles" only, and Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey claimed that a yes vote "could make Switzerland a target for Islamic terrorism".

Wow. Even when they are decrying the ban, they are slyly suggesting that this could result in a backlash. Did they want it? Switzerland was not attacked in the two world wars. During the First war, Lenin lived there; it managed to remain unscathed during the WW 11 by playing along with the Germans, although it did not fall into the Nazi trap.

If it has managed to work its way around such major upheavals in history what is the fear now? Mosques have been attacked these past two weeks.

Ulrich Schluer, an SVP politician has been holding forth:

"We compare our situation to Germany, France or England and the problems they have in their suburbs. That is what we do not want here. Mosques are not part of freedom of religion. This is not against Islam. The minaret is a symbol . . . of conquest and power, which marks the will to introduce Shariah law as in other European cities. We will not accept that".

Obviously, someone needs a few lessons in history. How is it not against Islam if it assumes that Shariah law will be introduced? Civil society building mosques is going to now connote conquest?

The problem is that many of these nations will market their goods, send their expertise to Arab countries and bask in the special privileges they get there, but at home they treat immigrants with suspicion.

I have already talked about the breach in the White House security. This was no terrorist attack.

I understand the need for societies to retain their own identity, but what can five per cent of the population do? Are we trying to use examples of a few terrorists? There is no way to justify those acts, but how many people are gunned down in campuses, how many people are murdered, how many fanatics of different stripes – and not just religion – walk around selling their ideologies? What about those versions of ‘shariah’? No one can impose a religious law in a democracy. This bogey is deliberately created to marginalise some groups.

Businesses such as watch-maker Swatch and Switzerland's famous banking industry said they feared the ban could provoke expensive boycotts by Muslims around the world, while the Swiss government warned it could inflame tensions between religions.

Oh, sure. This is what the business lot would be concerned about. Here is news. Muslims, the real rich ones, are the Arabs. They will not boycott anything so long as it is kosher. Trade will continue. If they just kept quiet and went about with their Alps and stopped getting all jittery about something rising up towards the sky, there would be no problems. The rowdies may come out in the streets and make a noise. This seems deliberate.

In the form of direct referendum to get views, they could have asked people about more pressing issues. Why did they choose this? To please the rest of Europe? France, Germany? Perhaps the country should take a good look at itself and watch how the different sections of its own French and German sides are disparate and have an ongoing quiet battle on between them.

I only hope Muslims forget about it as a bad joke and go on with their jobs. They do work too, you know? And the Swiss can be certain that at least one Muslim here has worshipped at the altar of Sprungli. And will continue to do so.