Pass the 'poor Muslim' some halal, please

I love it when the media tries so hard to sound secular. The Times of India had this first person account by someone who calls himself ‘A Son of India’. Now this SOI was on a flight back home from some holiday. The flight attendant apparently was rude to a Muslim. The writer is a Hindu. He makes that clear, just in case we make the grievous error of seeing a Muslim take up for a Muslim. That would be so bad, na?

The story is full of crappy stereotypes:

In the seat in front of us, there sat a young, quiet man, with a long beard, a typical Muslim cap, and white salwar.

So, our SOI has checked out the beard and the salwar although the man was in the seat in front. Even if they were travelling Business/First class, and he had to visit the loo in the front, how many people look at the clothes of men?

This Muslim man did what all Muslims are supposed to do – asked whether the non-veg meal was halal. See, what I mean? You cannot be a bloody Muslim until you find out how the animal or bird you are going to eat has been bled to death after some prayers were uttered.

There is also something about how he was not given tomato juice because it was over, but the White man was served. This does happen, but here the motive is different. You see, SOI had “downed a Ballantine’s with soda”, which is just so cool; his mother was also given half a glass of tomato juice. See, lady does not drink and because she is a Hindu she gets at least half a glass of juice. Muslim is offered Pepsi (how could he ever imbibe alcohol…taubah!) and just has to wait for his halal whatever.

The halal thing got our SOI furious. “All the poor man was doing was making sure that the meal was something that he could eat.”

Yeah. “Poor man.” Feeling good, eh? And, yes, our SOI can tell his V apart from his W…sooo werrryyy vonderful…

What really got my goat had started at the very beginning of this fable-like tale. It is about eight “Sardarjis” who were drinking themselves silly, making a noise. Of course, SOI is quick to tell us, “Some of my closest friends are Sardarjis. Some of the kindest, humblest, most intelligent and polished people I have met in Delhi are Sardarjis.”

Oh, cut it out…and some of the best bhangra I have seen is by sarjardis and sardarnis. So? Get to the point.

Here is the point. After that halal thing, he heard someone from the Sikh group say, “This is Indian Airlines, not Muslim Airlines!’’ SOI was aghast:

I could not hold back any longer. I turned to them and said as politely as I could, ‘Sir, please let me inform you that India is a huge nation. We have millions of Muslims. In fact, we have more Muslims than Pakistan. I am a Hindu and I really do not appreciate this kind of talk.’ At this point they all shut up and nodded.

Wahe SOI! He gave them an education. A bunch of people high on drinks wait to finish their meal and hit out at the poor Muslim? Does the poor Muslim not say anything at all? Does the SOI complain to the flight attendant in charge? Does he register a complaint? No. He writes this pathetic attempt at being the magnanimous fellow.

Pathetic because he goes on the ‘Jai Ho’ trip about India being the next superpower. What all his has to do with halal chicken only he knows. “The Europeans did it right, divide and conquer. We were great and rich once upon a time, and we are still the same now.”

Well, if there is anything this SOI has learned from the Brits it is to divide. If he wanted to tell us about the poor Muslim and rude airline staff, he could have written about that. He brought in the Sikhs. Imagine, Hindu saving the Mussalman from the Sikh.

What’s the next episode, kid? Pork on Muslim plate and how you saved the poor Muslim from Christian wrath?

This nonsense will get a lot of claps from people who think they are all liberal. TOI will publish letters. It is like their Sacred Space stuff…no-jhatka chicken for the soul.

People like SOI should just stick to their Ballantine’s and check out a bit of other booze that even Muslims relish. Oh, I forgot to ask whether the salwar was ankle-length or not.

Was it? Just wondering…

With a mouthful of rum-soaked chocolate, here I am signing off,
A Halal Mother of India.

The way we are - 5

Do Gurleen Kaur’s plucked eyebrows decide if she is not a “true Sikh”?

Endorsing a hardline stand by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), who barred a young Sikh girl admission in a minority institution on grounds that she violated a fundamental tenet of the religion by plucking her eyebrows, the Punjab and Haryana high court ruled the SGPC was fully justified in doing so.

I know one should jump in to defend the student. I won’t. She was seeking to get admitted to an institution that had specific “requisite of maintaining Sikh swarup (Sikh appearance) was a permissible precondition for admitting students under the Sikh minority community quota”. No one is dilly-dallying here.

Posh clubs have their rules, so why do we get so agitated when religious organisations lay down their terms? If she wants to get into a college, she can use a non-communal one. The problem is that many people want to belong to a ghetto with their superficial cosmopolitanism.

I think these arguments are a waste of time. The bench came out with a 152-page report! What can she challenge? There are Sikhs who do shave off their beards because of several reasons; most women, especially in the glamour world, would not be seen without plucked eyebrows. I am sure if they tried to join any religious committee, they would be debarred.

If we question any one institute, then we must ask whether what is written down in the scriptures or wherever should be evaluated again.

Of course, no one has any business to make a blanket judgment of whether a person is a true Sikh or not. There are many parameters to measure these and each will choose theirs. No point splitting hairs over this.

- - -

Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray wants Kasab hanged.

“It is a shame that we are spending crores from public funds to provide security to Ajmal Kasab, who had mercilessly murdered so many police officers and citizens. Why is he being kept alive for so long.”

To provide evidence, since we don’t seem to know how to find it.

Criticising the clean shit given by Ram Pradhan committee to city police and the state government on 26/11, Thackeray called the panel’s report a “farce’’. “We are trying to run away from the truth. Everybody knows who is responsible for the deaths of officers like Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamthe, Vijay Salaskar and several other cops,” said Thackeray.

Who is everybody? As a responsible citizen, you must come forward and say it aloud. Yes, the report is a farce. But what does it have to do with Kasab? And what about the enquiry into the Malegaon blasts? Because the question is not only about them being killed but why.

Hanging Kasab is a technicality. Getting to the root of the reason is more important. Are you ready for what will come out of it?


Hands and Feet

Hands and feet and fingers and toes are just so enticing, especially when seen differently. The tips of the fingers caressing, the hands holding, grabbing, reaching out...the feet sinking deep into sand or walking on grass, treading purposefully towards what looks like a destination.

Here are some pictures I have taken. They convey so many things to me…

Start of the day, the sun creeps in and the feet decide to have a cuppa, read the papers and lounge on a rocker!

A closed fist seen from this angle can appear to be a foetus:

The hands open out, like a flower…or more like a leaf spreading itself on the branch languorously:

No fingers are empty…they shine and they have ears that listen to that sheen:

Feet are larger than hands, but hands can reach out and touch them. Look through them…at them…indulgently, as though wanting to hold them forever:


The face of Indian de-mockery-cy

Kya bolti tu?

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi promised a rigorous assessment exercise for newly-inducted ministers, warning that those in the government could also make way for others currently outside, holding out, in one stroke, hope for ministerial aspirants and discards while sending out a perform or perish signal.

I dislike the way a word like ‘discards’ is used. And I do not see the need for this school marmish attitude. True, ministers have to work, but everyone knows what will happen and who will decide what work is to be done.

If I may say so, this threat is also a signal to make way for those ‘Young Turks’ once they have rounded up enough people.

Kya bolta tu?

PM Manmohan Singh who was the first one to start the campaign for Rahul Gandhi to join the cabinet now says:

“He already has a big responsibility to bring in young people... he is doing more than sitting in a cabinet meet.”

All right. It means that running a recruiting agency is more important than managing a production unit that caters to a huge demand and is responsible to its ‘buyers’ who have made it what it is.

We are not yet done with Dr. Singh. Here he is explaining the current cabinet:

“It is not always possible to accommodate everyone. There are several factors like availability and talent and other considerations that played a role.”

Availability? If there are aspirants waiting, as Ms. Gandhi suggested, then there is plenty of availability. People will give their right and left arms and all limbs to get a ministerial berth.

Talent? Is our PM telling us there is lack of talent and he had to go looking for it with a fine toothcomb? And at the end he found a 72-year-old M. S. Gill to head the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports? The 72-year-old Dr Farooq Abdullah gets New and Renewable Energy; I don’t know what the heck it means, but I hope it is not something tongue-in-cheek. There are lots of such talents…

Other considerations? Would the PM care to explicate? It does not sound nice at all.

And in this great secular republic we must know the number of people inducted from which caste and community. Here goes:

  • Brahmins - 9
  • Other Upper Castes - 19
  • Kshatriyas - 4
  • Vaishyas - 4
  • OBCs - 16
  • Dalits - 10
  • Tribals - 5
  • Muslims - 4
  • Sikhs - 3
  • Christians - 3
  • MBCs – 2

I wonder what category they are according to our PM – availability, talent or other considerations.

Kya main boloon!

A question of angles. I am putting this up because it is in the national newspaper. It should tell us just how well they are willing to exploit such situations:

Newly-inducted cabinet minister Farooq Abdullah is greeted by his daughter-in-law Payal Abdullah after the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan.


News meeows - 20

Are the attacks in various cities of Pakistan a holocaust?

Pakistan Human Rights Commission chairperson Asma Jehangir said the government failed to get its act together despite an intelligence report about an impending terror strike. “People of Pakistan are going through a holocaust. They are suffering high levels of trauma and stress due to sheer helplessness. Deep down they know they are in for a long haul,” Jehangir said.

What are these intelligence reports? Our subcontinent is known for intelligence reports that are either vague or come out in the open after such attacks. Media reports are careless, to say the least:

The Frankenstein’s monster unleashed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence struck back at its creator as suspected Taliban terrorists detonated a car bomb near the ISI office in Lahore, and gunmen opened fire at the guards.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the authorities said it was in retaliation to the anti-Taliban offensive in the country’s northwest. “This is a reprisal from the Taliban after their defeat in Swat,’’ interior minister Rehman Malik said. “Baitullah Mehsud (Pakistani Taliban chief) had threatened to attack major cities after the Swat operation.’’ He said the militants were on the run and had no option but to lay down arms.

Does Mr. Malik not realise that if militants are on the run and so scared of the government, how could they target a part of its own organisation? The Taliban is the creation of the ISI? If this is a certainty, then the government can disband it, right? And nothing will happen? I do not understand how the current regime is managing to get away with so much credit for its “anti-Taliban offensive” when it has destabilised the country.

Voluntary agencies have a propensity for playing along when the powers involved are so-called democratic forces.

Now, we are told that media reports think it was probably an attempt to free Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Mohammad Sayeed, who is under house arrest after the 26/11 carnage in Mumbai and was to be produced before a local court not far from the attack site.

Do you see how completely confusing these messages are? The Taliban was not involved in the Mumbai attacks. These are just tactics to deflect from the main issue – the Pakistan government had created this monster and is answerable to its masters elsewhere.

- - -

The Slumdog Millionaire actors are getting on my nerves. Every other day there is some story. One thing is for sure. The film will remain in the public eye for longer than it deserves to be. No one ever bothered about what happened to the kids who acted in Salaam Bombay. The producers had also started a trust but its main actor got nothing and is now, I believe, an autorickshaw driver.

Mohammed Azharuddin and Rubina Qureshi have been endorsing products, are being feted by political leaders, the state government has given them some property, and a voluntary organisation is giving them Rs. 6,500 for monthly expenses. And what happened to that Qatar businessman who came to sponsor Rubina’s education?

What is going on? If at all, the film’s producers should have paid the kids a proper amount and been done with it. Why the tamasha of a trust, homes? What happened to the tale about Rubina’s father willing to ‘sell off’ his daughter? I think that was a plant to get sympathy and maybe prop up the film. You think Danny Boyle has returned to Mumbai to save these kids? From what?

And then our government and people will feel all so sad. Damn. Has anyone realised that when the Garib Nagar slums were bulldozed there were other families there too? Did anyone read the report of the Sanjay Gandhi Nagar slumdwellers who were given housing and sold those flats? That was a huge racket and it is fairly common. What is actor Gerard Butler doing visiting them? If Hollywood is so concerned, someone can just take them there. They are the business of their employers, not of the Government of India or the state or NGOs.

If the establishment wants to help them then they will have to help all slumdwellers. The GOI has not produced the film. The GOI has not benefitted from it. The GOI is not in the business of selective choices. There are no reservations yet for those who star in international films. The GOI has responsibilities towards all citizens.

- - -

The Dalai Lama has offered $100,000 and his help fundraising to prevent the planned closure of an imperilled religion department at a Florida university after receiving an emailed plea for a letter of support from a longtime acquaintance on the faculty.

Great. One more international personality that makes the headlines always. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual head of a community based in a specific location. His people have been fighting for the right to a homeland. They are refugees in India. He has got his own shop set up in Dharamsala and until recently pretty much decided how much bhai-bhai we could do with China.
He is pretty cut off from many of his own as this piece I wrote shows.

Why is he trying to save a department of religion? What is so great about it? Obviously, no one cares enough for it. So what are they trying to prevent from folding up? What is the source of the Dalai Lama’s funds? Is it his job to help in fund-raising drives when Tibetans have to go on strike and suffer huge losses whenever they need to protest against something or the other by the Chinese authorities?

Where are all those Hollywood followers who embraced Buddhism? They are closer to Florida or is the clinch only for convenience when they can show off their robes and their beatific expressions and make those mandatory gestures to claim His Holiness as their superstar?


Does Rahul Gandhi even know what a Young Turk means?

Just when I thought we were done with the tacky ‘Singh is King’ headline in national newspapers, we now have ‘Rahul’s Young Turks’.

Never mind that they did not find a place in the government. As I mentioned in a comment earlier, Rahul Gandhi should have put himself to test with a cabinet berth.

The media ought to at least up their knowledge a bit before they shoot their mouths off.

What is a Young Turk? Simple dictionary meanings are here:

  1. A member of a Turkish reformist and nationalist political party active in the early 20th century.
  2. A young progressive or insurgent member of an institution, movement, or political party.
  3. A young person who rebels against authority or societal expectations.

Do these men fit into any category? Don’t hang on to the word 'progressive' because these people need to be tested on that count. How can they rebel against authority when they are the authority?

I was shocked to read this:

Under Rahul Gandhi’s guidance, the Youth Congress is turning target-oriented and adhocism-free by suggesting that those who enrol between 5,000 and 10,000 members stand a good chance to be nominated for an assembly election.

This is like encounter killings – your promotion depends on your hit rate. Or like insurance agents.

The report also states:

Rahul Gandhi has asked his team of Young Turks not to dream of being in the government at least for six months and to devote their energies to the recruitment of fresh blood across the country.

Do you realise what this means? That after six months of meeting their targets, they can start hustling? It also means they could prove to be worse than the opposition parties and demand their pound of flesh.

What happened to the committed youth who were ready to ‘Jaago re’?

- - -

I have covered the stupidity of this before, but last night on TV they had these people talking about how we should not rubbish the dynasty…after all, we have instances of musicians’ children becoming musicians…

Haan, but a tabalchi’s son will bang on the tablas; a sitarist’s daughter will pull other strings.

An actor’s son will capitalise on papa/mama’s skills before the camera.

A businessman’s beta or beti will inherit wealth and change the décor in the office to make it look more hip.

That’s it. They won’t really mess around with the country. Though, bad musicians and actors can be a huge pain. But you just don’t pay to watch them.

Do you have a choice with these Young Tharkis?

Rahul Gandhi said he wants to change the way politics is conducted in our country. Not a chance. Sorry. You started on the wrong foot.

Go send this young blood to first donate blood. Get doctors in the remote villages. Electricity. Water. Literacy. These young people must be brought together to do these things rather than bribing people to join the party so that they can get more power and sit like satraps and continue with the same things. Prune the lawns, but there will still be weeds. By changing the curtains you do not alter the window or the way you look through it.

Just as wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt does not make anyone a revolutionary. Nice try, though.

Taking it on the chin

There are some articles that get people to respond either very sharply or emotionally, as the case may be. There are far too many and I had said I would put them up but realised most of those people may not be genuine even about the abuses!

It is a set pattern if the issue is Indo-Pak. In one pithy sentence: Pakistani saying, "Why write on Pakistan?"; Indian saying, "Why write on Pakistan?"; I thinking...at least they are reading. I get good idea from all this.

I have merely emphasised some points in the excerpts below that made me smile or laugh aloud or well...

Do not forget to scroll down for the finale…the only one I replied to from this lot because the person is a known number.

Views from Pakistan

Farzana, don’t comment basing on your fantasies. There is more filth in your country try to clean that first. I know this is no argument but what you see in Pakistan is mostly projected and propagation. You ask me any thing and I can reply that regarding society here. Now edit and read yourself whatever I could write. There are mistakes but I have to do other jobs as well.

Out side America the UE is not satisfied even. You have watched the flogging and not the way they humiliate women in their society. They don't spare sick idea to materialize practically.`
I know Britni and Miley and Jolie very well but would not like our society to go after there foot print as we would need a good stock of morning afters!.

- - -
Why don't you give Pakistanis the real face of India and write about that in the news papers?

Killing of Muslims everyday, Muslims are not allowed to go to mosques, poverty, farmer suicides, filthy cites, army raping Kashmiri girls and mothers and castrating Kashmiri men? You could write about it and break up India into small pieces which we will then conquer by jihad.

View from India

I am thinking that your articles is too much pessimistic. Elections are the good things that we are having and the rest are not having. You are telling the communal forces are not destroyed that is for you sad. But that is the true it will never be. You are the expecting that every one problem must be solved otherwise it is not good, and you must to thinking that one by one all the problem it will be solved. I am to much happy that the winning is Congress because the future will be good. I am thinking that to many our people they are not understan the english and they cannot getting job or business.
I am liking your writing also that kagazkalam is to much clever. Are you having the children?
- - -
Hi Farzana,

I read your article on Manmohan singh and all that he could 'not do' and how he showed it as achievement, for things that were not really achievement.

However, why do you feel that PM has to be some one who has won an election.

Mother teresa was not married to father of children she adopted, and she is still a mother.

With due respect for your expereince of journalism, I would have appreicated if you could have taken more holistic view. At the end of day you create perceptions in the minds of reader, but then there are some like me hard to convince.

But some where you are also fighting with the perception of elegibility for a person to be PM, rather than what he should do.

He is lot better than many, isnt he?
IF he listens to all, doesnt it means he is all encompassing. If he listen to sonia doesnt that he mean, he knows his limitations.

Farzana its dynamic democracy, where 2+2 = 4 will not be case always.


- - -

The final one here in response to Imagining the Taliban:

Hi Farzana,

Having read your article three times over, I STILL have absolutely no idea what you're trying to get at - tum kehna kya chahti ho? It seems to me you're a muslim who can't reconcile to being an Indian (or vice versa) - either way, you seem to carrry HUGE chips on your shoulders, which make you attack the Bollywood Khans, Azim Premji and even the venerable Dr Abdul Kalam for no particular reason, and with no particular logic. Your statement that the Bombayites were not angry, but only `mildly irritated' at the 26/11 carnage was pure poppycock, to say the least.

Anyway, this is not about your identity crisis, but your other references...

As a muslim, if you feel the Taliban doesn't need to be stopped, then we are on different pages altogether, and there's no point in having this exchange at all..

As an `incidental' Hindu, I am terribly proud of the pluralism of India (I prefer the word to secularism), and take great comfort in the fact that the saffron brigade is peripheral to the concept of INDIA - fringe elements that pose no threat to this great nation and what it stands for..


My reply:


I should hope this form of greeting fits in with a certain stereotype you seem to harbour, never mind the fact that I am an “accidental Muslim”, as opposed to your “incidental Hindu”.

It is rare for anyone to read my article these many times, though I do wonder why you, or anyone for that matter, respond to something so obtuse. Thank you for dignifying my “not particular reason”, “no particular logic”. You are very kind.

You ask, “tum kehna kya chahti ho?” Jo aap theek samje, kyonki aap samajh hi nahin rahe hain.

You bring in the old thing about Muslim vs. Indian and the Premji brigade. My “poppycock” has turned out to be almost like a prophecy. I hope you do not blame this on my ashubh (inauspicious) Muslim blood.

And why should I respond to the Taliban only as a Muslim? Then, may I ask if you are responding as a Hindu?

Regarding the pluralism of India, that cannot go away as long as some of us live it, rather than live with it. I do not wish to flaunt anything, but my upbringing and my family are examples of it. To reiterate it everytime I write anything that goes against the tide would be to reduce myself. I refuse to do so even after the continual questioning of my nationality (forget nationalism).

However, it is interesting that you see the saffron brigade that has caused havoc several times in our own country as “fringe elements” but the Taliban as a threat. What more can I say?

I do hope the light tone has not offended you. I did not want this to be one more exercise where you waste your time trying to figure out what I am saying. Thanks for writing in, anyway.

Khuda Hafiz before I run out of Muslim phrases…



There was no Ghajini in my train

This is what has been appearing in the local trains. A picture with an Aamir Khan-lookalike as portrayed in the film Ghajini - muscular body, tattoos with comments against Muslims. In the report they have been mentioned as members of a community.

Now, the railway police are investigating the case.

While it was not clear about the printer of the poster, the name of an organisation, Dharm Raksha Manch, appeared at the bottom of the poster. “We will register a case under Section 153 a (creating hatred among two communities),” said Bharatkumar Rane, senior inspector of Mumbai Central railway police.

Where is Aamir Khan? Doesn’t he always jump in to protect rights and make a committed comment? Why has he shut up now?

The local trains in Mumbai ferry across over 6 million people everyday. Will this affect their viewpoint? Or will they just look at it as a Ghajini promo? Oh, just in case people do not know…the film is due for a ‘world premiere’ on Indian television soon. Is it time for saying Ouch?

- - -

I have travelled in these trains and people barely have space to breathe. Let me recollect some images:

Ladies’ compartment: Sweat patches in armpits. Fading strings of jasmine or mogra in hair. The wind in faces near the footboard. Grumbling voices of those behind if the strands of hair lashed against their faces. Fisherwomen entering with their catch in baskets. Munching bars of chocolate or opening packets of peanuts. Chopping vegetables for home. Opening shopping bags to show friends new purchases. Sounds of women singing. “Push, push” the urgent request to make space for one more person where only four could fit. Taking turns. Stamping on toes. Asking you for the time even if they had watches. Asking you where you’d get off. Not out of concern, but so they could take your place. Reading books. Solving crossword puzzles. Hawkers. Beggars. Eunuchs insisting they are women.

Men’s compartment: Sweaty. Playing cards on briefcases. Discussing politics. Discussing the stock market. Discussing the women in the ladies’ compartments. Cracking off-colour jokes.

I usually travelled early to miss the peak hour and got back home late because I worked hard! I shall always remember the one time I got into a compartment. No one was there. I shut my eyes and hoped no one would enter and notice that I was edgy. At a station I suddenly saw a man ready to step out (one could not look at the other side if you were sitting near the window). I rushed to the doorway. How did I miss this? I went to where he had been and saw a pile of turd. This guy had defecated there.

I had no choice but to wait for the next station to alight and run to another compartment. It made me wonder how we can just shut ourselves to everything and not see, hear or smell…

Perhaps those posters will work in the same way. Hatred is like shit, anyway.

Did anybody remember a soldier today?

America commemorates the soldiers who have died in wars on Memorial Day. For most people it is a long weekend about things they will do – go to the supermarket, stock up on what they need to live, plan a short trip out of town, watch lots of movies, call friends over for a barbeque, rustle up some fancy meals, clean out cupboards, complete pending paperwork, go swimming-walking-cycling-snorkelling-rock climbing-bungee jumping, open that special bottle of wine.

Dead soldiers are not on most people’s minds.

You might question me about the cynicism. After all, I do not object to Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, the day of the jackal and stuff, so why this? Because wars are vicious. Soldiers do not plan them; politicians do and in military dictatorships generals do, though politicians in some societies decide what the generals must do.

Those who die rarely know about the cause they are fighting for. They are young people who are conscripted. Patriotism creates guinea pigs of people who ought to be contributing towards peace. It is what they want. Their parents want. Their spouses want. Their children want.

In India, the armed forces celebrate these events. Some people are given honours posthumously. The ordinary citizen gets to know about it in next day’s newspapers. So, we do not have a long weekend. But am sure, if we did then we’d do exactly the things mentioned.

Flowers on graveyards tomorrow will be wilted. That should tell us what such days truly mean…

- - -

War, like other dramatic spectacles, might possibly cease for want of a "public." – George Eliot

Ask the vexpert - 18

Question: My girlfriend and I have protected sex once in three months. Last time during sex I applied tomato sauce on her breasts and navel and slowly started sucking the areas. We both enjoyed the act. Is this okay? Also, can you please suggest some styles we can experiment with?

Sexpert: You do not seem to need my help. Each person can fantasise for himself/herself. It is normal to play out your fantasies if both partners agree, it is not harmful to either if it is not done in public. Since you are so enthusiastic, look up some of the Kama Sutra positions.

Me: This is so like going out for dinner once in three months. And choosing a healthy option. Instead of wine and whipped cream, you have gone for processed tomatoes. This will ensure that you have healthy bones, teeth, skin and hair. Also, during some heavy activity, it will help lower your blood pressure. Of course, this should not only help you, so make sure your partner also gets to have some of it.

About positions, I would recommend you stick to the Tomato Strategy. What do tomatoes do in pasta? How are they spread in sandwiches? Sometimes, you can try making your own tomato sauce right there, except that your partner must be willing to endure the garlic-onion sweating, and the oregano being roughed up. Or you could have a tomato hanging on a pole and jiggling, or you might aim straight at it. The tomato asana is a yogic position in which you act as though you are going to be sliced; essentially play numb. And then give yourself up to whatever follows. The alternative is to imagine you are in a blender, so just toss and turn at rapid speed. It will give quite a new dimension to the quickie.

Warning: Should your girlfriend and you decide to procreate, do not include the sauce in your adventures when she is nursing. Milk curdles.

PS: May I suggest you use Salsa as a baby name?


The Myth of Manmohan Singh

The Myth of Manmohan Singh

The Follower as Leader
by Farzana Versey
Counterpunch, May 22-24, 2009

History is often about a play of words. The man of the moment who has taken the oath of office for the second term is an actor in search of ‘no character’. It is the invisibility of the persona that is his trump card.

It works in a situation where we are robotising the human. Indian democracy has promoted a standard iconisation of the middle-class. This is not the middle-class of dissent but of consumerism. Our Prime Minister is not the brand; he is the franchisee. Dr. Manmohan Singh, the genial, the educated, the decent man, has power without responsibility.

He will probably go down in history as a bureaucrat being promoted as a great politician. Dr. Singh does not deserve many of the accolades he has got. So, where's the catch?

The catch is to have canny people to back you. No one realises that the real force behind the liberalisation policies was former Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao. As finance minister, Singh became the hero of the industrialists. They did not mind some wealth percolating down to the middle-class as long as it was called the middle-class. Therefore, India’s power is still in the hands of the business tycoons. The swelling belly has not given birth to any major financial power centre; it could well have been a mere bubble.

Manmohan Singh’s role is to showcase a country that exists in the imagination of a few.

That is his version of India. He has never contested an election; he has no grassroots experience. It shows up glaringly when he decides to go rural in his talks. When the Left Parties were opposing the nuclear deal, he tried explaining his stand to the then President George Bush by stressing that it was important to take care of the vulnerability of two-thirds of the population, namely 650 million people, dependent on agriculture for sustenance. "That meant that India needed some degree of protection through special products and safeguards, on which we need greater clarity."

In his enthusiasm to play Santa Claus he did not notice all those farmers committing suicide or that India was importing wheat. What happened to the great Green Revolution?

The caucus of industrialists supported the deal, not the ordinary citizen or the villager who is supposed to benefit. It was also a major diplomatic sell-out. India already generates hundred thousand mega watts of energy; with this deal we would get 20,000 MW more by the year 2020.

This is what showcasing the prioritised India means. He is no strategist, but he walked away with all the credit for something that amounts to nothing.

In the crass world of politics where wily forces rule, Singh’s asset is that he is a vacillator. His being a phenomenon has more to do with serendipity than statesmanship. The Congress has wisely used his name as their calling card. But it is not true that every wrong move by the party and the onus of it would be on him. Quite the contrary. He is in the enviable position to get away with anything and attribute it to helplessness, because he is not considered rabid, rigid, or regressive. And he is answerable to the dynasty.

It would be no revelation to state that Sonia Gandhi is propping up Dr. Manmohan Singh; the more pertinent point is that he chooses to be propped up.

In the epic Mahabharata, the low-caste archer Eklavya is asked to offer his right thumb as guru dakshina as he could prove to be a threat to the royal Pandava Arjuna. Although he has not been tutored by the guru Dronacharya, he has been inspired enough to practise before his clay idol. The disciple readily offers him his thumb.

In the contemporary context, would it be considered a sacrifice or a measure to please? In the epic, the reason the guru is completely awestruck by the humble archer's skills is that on being disturbed by a barking stray he aims an arrow and seals the mouth of the dog without apparent injury or loss of blood.

Dr. Singh’s has been a bloodless coup. He has added that dreaded word dignity to the lexicon of Machiavellian manoeuvres. What we see of him today is an elderly patriarch trying to appear upright while promoting a liberal market lifestyle. It must be noted that the liberalism is confined to the market.

He is protecting the brand. The brand comes with the baggage of Bofors. Of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. He looks the other way and pushes forward the Rahul Doctrine. No one quite knows what it is. Dr. Singh is probably unaware about it too. Rahul Gandhi has been called the political scion, and there is no need for us to be chary about it, for we have watched this and encouraged it for six decades. Today’s pretence and talk against monarchy are essentially hollow dictums to appear as dissenters.

Rahul Gandhi famously said that his party is proud of the poor in India. The romanticisation of poverty is primarily non-rational. So when we talk about equality it is a legal expression. All legal systems have been brought by force. This suits democracies rather well; you do not have to ensure uniformity because it goes against the egalitarian principle of fairplay.

The Doctrine may have gained some ground in Uttar Pradesh, but that state is not in the big stakes financially. It is good to let the political iron remain hot there while the big businesses thrive elsewhere and keep their saviours in power happy.

One might be prompted to make the rather wicked comment that this is a caretaker government. As Pythagoras said, with the advent of the intelligent man, there is no honest man.

Manmohan Singh has been given a pedestal; the pillar is the Family. Today’s cult figure is ensured tomorrow’s cartoon strip.


Aung San Suu Kyi can fly

Aung San Suu Kyi exudes tranquility. The power of still waters that can create such variegated images with a mere ripple. The only way one can admire her is silently.

Her trial has begun. Important people from several countries have congregated. She thanks them and apologises she cannot meet them individually. "Perhaps in better times..." she hopes.

It has been a nineteen-year battle with the Myanmar regime. The citizens are with her. But these are times of voices muffled.

For the last 13 years she has been under house arrest. I find the phrase a contradiction in terms. A house is what makes you just as you create it. If you embellish it, it begins to speak your language. Your house has character. It is the cocoon you retire to when you want to return to yourself.

Being under arrest in a place called home is like being strangled by a loved one.

There have been several instances of such arrests; not all possess the tragic dimensions of Suu Kyi's case. For, she fights the battle with nerves of steel but never near enough to heat for it to turn malleable. She does not go looking for special privileges. The litheness of her feet on the ground makes her even more in touch with it than digging her heels into it would.

Recently, an American swam the lake at the rear of her house and made way inside. Along with him, she and her two housekeepers will be tried. The government does not want her to be around during next year's elections.

It does not matter. 13 years later, she is the one on centrestage. The Myanmar establishment is referred to mostly when there is talk about her.

Unlike so many movements worldwide, she is a one-person army. She is responsible for her every word and action.

They won't release her. That is her victory. And the victory of the people she represents. If you can make the powerful so afraid by your very presence, then the war has been won.

The ones really under arrest are outside, captives of positions and fear.

A bird in a cage can still have faith in its wings.


India's Muslims and Communalism

Set the poll rolling:

India's Muslims
by Farzana Versey

The News International, May 20, 2009

My cellphone and Inbox are filled with cheesy messages. “Communal forces have been defeated. Progress and peace are in the offing. God is great. Jai ho!”

It isn’t the BJP defeat that bothers me as much as the Congress victory. For, we are being fed these false images of a young India, an India on the move, an India that is secular. How different is it from the ‘India Shining’ baloney?

The messages like the one I mentioned are mostly from progressive Indian Muslims who blatantly play the communal card, forcing mullahs to walk with them on peace rallies. They don’t even realise the silliness of their stand. Who stopped peace and progress while the non-communal government was in power? And was god not great when the NDA was at the Centre?

The worst part is the assumption that communal forces have been defeated. Take a look at the candidates put up. Why were rookies chosen? Because the majority of the electorate from those areas were from a particular caste or community. Besides that, every religious leader will be wooed.

The tendency to jump the gun is opportunistic. The rally-wallah Mussalmans know exactly which cause to espouse and when. They will join in issues which have international appeal – Palestine, Iraq, Mumbai attacks. How many take out morchas for Dalits, or those killed by Naxalites, or in Malegaon or Bhiwandi blasts?

They get thrilled when local corporators visit the slums that were demolished only because the star of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ lives there; they get excited about an activist who lands up wherever the cameras are wearing a bindi to show how secular she is. And we have had the disgusting sight of a man whose house was burned down during the Gujarat riots sit before a TV panel and tell the audience to move on. Why? He is a rich.

That is the reason I think the Indian Muslim reaction is kneejerk. Narendra Modi is not a spent force; he may be a regional leader but that is his strength. He has managed to consolidate his position in such a manner that even Muslim businessmen are talking about economic growth. That is all they are interested in. Modi spoke about 50 million Gujaratis without mentioning religion. It will be his smart card for years to come.

In fact, the BJP’s defeat will boost his position. While L.K.Advani is a statesman without a state, Modi will work his way through home ground. And nothing will happen to him. With vultures already preying on the party leadership position, Advani will have to deal with his own creation. He thought Modi would be a domesticated pet who could act as watchdog to warn visitors. The leash, alas, was too long.

The handful of the 150 million Muslims can continue to live in their canny paradise, but they have no right to make fools of those who do not have a choice or a voice.

When Uma Bharti had the gumption to declare before the elections that she and the senior BJP leaders did not know who demolished the Babri Masjid, there were no rallies by these so-called liberal Muslims demanding an explanation. How many bothered to collect the relevant data which is easily accessible and put it forward?

When there were questions asked about certain lies by NGOs in Gujarat, why did these Muslims not come forward and provide facts and figures or ask their own questions? How many of them will speak to the new government about expediting these cases? Or will they only look for their chance of getting a Rajya Sabha seat?

When the Darul Uloom issued a fatwa asking Muslims to vote, why did they not tell the religious organisation to stop interfering in the business of the state even if they were responding to the queries raised by the devout?

Religion and progress are not mutually exclusive; in fact, it is the most potent combination. You can sell faith faster than a burger. With extra cheese and mayo.

As long as this continues, and political leaders go around various places of worship, and you hear duas and shlokas on TV screens with a voice-over luring you with, “If you want this as your caller tune then SMS us”, we will remain a communal country.


Prabhakaran and another Sri Lanka

The guy who had probably discovered a bit about V. Prabhakaran a couple of years ago was giving us the news. He sounded jubilant. “We are the first channel that told you he is dead. We were the first to bring you pictures of his dead body.”

I cringed. Also, I did not know what he was celebrating. Did he know? The LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) had the support of India in the early stages until the dynamics changed and they began to be disillusioned with the Indian government. They killed Rajiv Gandhi.

Anyone who has travelled extensively through South India, mainly the tip of Tamil Nadu, especially Rameswaram, will realise that there was support and the usual make-fast-buck tactics. I wasn’t surprised to read this bit of news:

"Smuggling to Sri Lanka has been a major source of income for many people living on the coast. Smuggling for LTTE was very minuscule when compared with the smuggling for Sri Lankan civilian consumption. Narcotic smuggling for LTTE had come down drastically in the last few years. It's true that smuggling activities have been hit due to increased coastal vigilance. However, smugglers will become active again after a while," a senior police official said.

The waters in this area are astoundingly beautiful. Even a decade ago when I was visiting, one could see fishermen, who the reports say would get arrested under the pretext that they were LTTE operatives. The attitude towards terror suspects is pretty much the same everywhere. And today, India says that Tamilians should be given more autonomy. This is another country we are talking about. This is our government view:

In a brief reaction, the external affairs ministry spokesman in New Delhi said, “It is our view that as the conventional conflict in Sri Lanka comes to an end, this is the moment when the root causes of the conflict can be addressed.’’ It called for effective devolution of powers within the country’s constitution to ensure that all communities, including Tamils, could feel at home and lead their lives with dignity. The spokesman added that India would work with the people and the government of Sri Lanka to provide relief to those affected by the tragic conflict, help rapidly rehabilitate all those displaced and bring back normalcy as soon as possible.

India feels responsible because it knows how it worked its way through this conflict. The death of Prabhakaran cannot kill a movement. What were we doing for three decades to get to the root cause? We are asking Sri Lanka to treat all its communities with dignity?

It is extremely polite of the Sri Lankan government not to tell us to look within our backyards. It is also to their credit that Indians are welcomed in their country, and for a few years now tourists get visa upon arrival.

- - -

I used to be a Sri Lanka junkie.

I absolutely love the place. However, certain areas were out-of-bounds for tourists. And security is stringent at the airports. I recall on one occasion the lady frisking me wanted to check my hand luggage again. I had a small box of dates and she did everything possible to find out more about it. Finally, I said, “Eat it.” She didn’t. No, I couldn’t carry it. I can say that someone owes me a few dates…

Then I remember this man in a lungi. I was on my way from Thiruvanathapuram airport. We were going through the security check and he had a lota (water jug) in his hand. It was the sort used to clean up!

Many non-Tamilians of Indian origin live and work here; most run small businesses, especially trading in gemstones. The Sindhi gentleman sitting next to me on a flight to Colombo told me he was a big man. All I could see was that he knew the flight attendants and he flirted outrageously with them.

He was a film distributor and was candid enough to tell me, “I can only afford third grade fillims. No other market here, no?”

I sympathised with his predicament. He offered to host me. I said, no thanks. He waited till I changed money and then insisted on dropping me off. I decided to do some political snooping. “So, is it okay for Indians?”

“You can settle down here, no problem. You look like Afghani, anyway.”

In Galle, there are several antique shops run by Muslims…and they are not pushing anything; we talked, we discussed, and I just walked towards the stretch of sea as women sold crochet doilies.

It was time to sip some tea…

Am I talking bull?

“We are up by 2111 points,” I said.

I could imagine my banker blinking at the other end of the phone.

I recall the times they had tried to educate me about things like smart money and investment strategy…oh, also risk portfolios. The last one really got my hormones active. The word risk does this to me.

Today, as I saw our Prime Minister’s caricature on the TOI front page and a bull being shot off from an army tanker, I realised this was a war we had won. The bull was looking a bit like a purring kitten, which is out of character, but then I was behaving as though I knew what I was talking about, which I didn’t.

The first time these monetary advisors had wooed me with whine and poses – “you know, money can rot” (that naturally made me imagine how all those Gandhiji notes would turn frail and die) – I had rattled off, “But investments in mutual funds are subject to market risks”. Ah, I sure sounded as sharp as the jab I felt at the thought of my currency becoming fungus-ridden in the savings account or the fixed deposits.

Where did I learn all this? I tell you, television has its benefits. Each time they show an ad painting a rosy picture about how your funds can grow on trees, they come out with one big thorny statement uttered at breakneck speed at the very end, “Mutual funds are subject to market risks.” I have trained my ears; they can catch these things better than a classical raga. So, while it will take me hours to figure out whether it is raga bhairavi playing in the morning, I know for certain that I am at risk.

The banker did not know this background – nah, not about raga bhairavi, but about how I got my knowledge about mutual funds and the Spanish bullfight. So, he gave me the look he reserved for Carla Bruni before anyone knew about Carla Bruni. I was ready for anything and signed on the dotted line.

Aside: How can lines be dotted? I only see them straight and, worse, these guys even mark a cross to make sure I sign where I am supposed to.

Back to the present: That bull being shot out of the tanker was enough for me to make that call and tell them the stuff I am made of.

“We are up by 2111 points,” I said.

“Well, yes, but we need to wait and watch. This could be a temporary high.”

“Oh, you sound so bearish,” I finished.

- - -
Disclaimer: I did not call anyone. All this happened in the mind, but now that I have said it, I will. The rest of the stuff is true.


Was it a good election?

I do have TV dinners; today I went ahead with a TV lunch. All because India’s future was going to be decided. I had barely managed to pop one kofta into my mouth (okay, I did cut it into two pieces but I don’t want to sound divisive), and they said the Congress was rocking.

I ought to have done a little twirl. Don’t feel like it. The curry was rather good.

How I wish I were one of those politicians saying, “Let us get the full tally and then I shall tell you…” No full tally required. It is the Congress. Pop one more kofta ball.

From what I gather the Congress has got this kind of vote after 18 years. It can go it alone. I only hope it does. I am tired of coalition politics that are totally based on numbers.

Nitish Kumar says he will give support only if Bihar is given special status. What? Why? And here we complain about Kashmir.

Home Minister P.Chidambaram lost by 3,555 votes in his constituency Sivaganga. He is sulking and has asked for a repoll. I don’t know why. He will continue to be the Congress party’s nice guy with preppy accent. I was, however, surprised to hear experts say that the loss was because he was not in touch with his people. Then the margin should have been greater, right? But I am not an expert, so I can just dig into my vegetable pulao and watch them play.

Ram Vilas Paswan who thought he could be the prime minister lost; he lost his own seat forget the showing of his party. Yet, he is happy that the secular forces won. Oh yeah. These secular forces will now to talk to Imams, sadhus, bishops.

In god’s own country, Kerala, the former UN Under Secretary General Shashi Tharoor went around Thiruvananthapuram yesterday even before the poll results were out and started tearing his posters. He said:

“This is a beautiful city. I don’t want to disfigure the walls with pictures of politicians after the elections. I want to set a model by removing the posters."

He has won by a large margin.

I suspect the Congress will pamper him. Instead, he should be treated like Sam Pitroda. For those who came in late – or were just born too late – Rajiv Gandhi had invited this expat techie to India and the process of the 21st century might have been a bit pat, but he is responsible for a lot of the communication revolution in the country. If you find PCO booths in the remotest towns, you know who to thank. Time for me to take a large chunk of malai rose barfi.

Why did the BJP lose? Because it is its own worst enemy. It wasn’t a consolidated battle. This time some smart types decided to play Modi against Advani. Two power centres are fine if one handles the remote control, not if both want to be visible leaders.

Now that psephologists will do their final analysis, I only hope:

  • We are done with anchors picking out chunks from their touch screen monitors and juggling them around.

  • Varun Gandhi takes sanyas.

  • Uma Bharti gives up sanyas.

  • The Congress builds the Ram Mandir. Seriously. Then Modi can go around on lecture tours to say how he made Gujarat so prosperous. If Mumbai’s dabbawallas can become IIM speakers and be honoured at Buckingham Palace, then so can he.


  • I don’t have to hear that Jai Ho song again.

Switched off the TV set and unfurled the foil of the chocolate bar. Lindt’s Excellence With a Touch of Sea Salt. Dark, slightly bitter, slightly salty…

Just like this precious irony:

Caption in TOI...GUARDING DEMOCRACY: A policewoman guards a locked room with EVMs inside, in Jaipur on Friday


The way we are - 4

Varun Gandhi was never a threat to the nation. He can stop lying about the doctored tapes. He hasn’t said anything after that which conveys he did not mean those things.

He filed a petition:

He said the UP government "acted in a malafide and vindictive manner by disregarding the procedure established by law with the sole purpose of gaining political mileage in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections and malign the reputation and image of the petitioner".

Wah, wah. Varun Gandhi has a reputation and image to uphold? His reputation and image are the creation of that one speech. He was nothing before that; he will become another Praveen Togadia of the BJP.

The Supreme Court directed the Mayawati government to immediately withdraw NSA charges against him.

Apparently, these are poll times, so there was no fight. The fellow wanted Rs. 10 lakh in ‘damages’. I wonder if it isn’t too much to wash his foul mouth with. I’d personally like him to be given that money so that he can be sent to a good finishing school where they teach you how to walk and talk. Or maybe he can donate that money for the children in Pilibhit whose community he targeted.

Or he could pay for Ajmal Kasab’s legal fees. That way he will be helping the nation.

- - -

A report says:

The government is yet to decide the legal fees it will pay Kasab’s lawyer Abbas Kazmi. According to sources, the special court that appointed Kazmi as Kasab’s counsel had suggested that Kazmi be paid Rs 2,500 per day of argument…If the trial goes on for years, Kazmi’s fees is likely to runs into tens of lakhs.”

Interestingly, they are talking of the trial going on for years. Lawyers can only use delay tactics, but what about courts that defer hearings? Heck, everyday, someone or the other is identifying one weapon, one bullet, one date or pistachio…I have said it before. No one is in a hurry.

I read some punk say that the trial should be expedited, as though this is some kangaroo court. If the government has taken it upon itself to go as per provisions provided by the judiciary, then the procedures will be followed. Unless they let him take that walk around his barrack and look away as someone shoots him.

An aside:

Senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani said that Pakistani gunman Ajmal Amir Kasab should not be hanged as “he looks like an escaped lunatic who did not know what he was doing”.

When his lawyer spoke about Kasab being underage, did not this humble blogger make a dig at it?

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

Please note that Mr. Jethmalani appeared on behalf of Indira Gandhi’s killers. He is saying it with some authority. Now, I would like to know whether such statements are permissible in a case that is sub judice.

- - -

I wonder why the National Securities Act was not slapped on Chhotu even though Varun and he have one thing is common (revealed later). Who is Chhotu? A dog.

It is like any political story for this Bihari kutta. Six years ago he was sentenced to death. He was a menace and had bitten some people.

But Raj Kumari Devi, the owner of the dog, said:

"It is a conspiracy by my neighbours to grab my property. They are targeting my protector, Chhotu."

Last July another case was slammed against him under CrPC section 107 (disturbing peace).

Like all big cases, this too dragged on.

Official sources in the Purnia district administration said that hearing in the case was deferred several times in the last six months, due to floods and ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

She put up a brave fight and who do you think supported her? Maneka Gandhi! (now you know the connection.)

Devi finally won the battle.

"I simply begged for clemency saying that being a widow, Chhotu was my only companion and protector."

- - -

The peaceful monk:

A monk drags a polling agent, who voters say was involved in false voting, outside a poll booth in Thiksey, east of Leh.


Of Scapegoats and Separatists

Set the poll rolling

Of Scapegoats and Separatists
by Farzana Versey
The News International, May 14, 2009

Mirwaiz Umer Farooq's cap is symbolic. The story goes that the minute he reaches Delhi, he wants to take it off. It isn't capitulation, but the heavy burden that was thrust on him after his father's death when he was just 17; Mirwaiz is an inherited religious position. The nerd-like chief of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference's moderate faction has to be moderate, religious, leader and separatist. It is a whole lot of eggs in one basket, a basket made of the thinnest straw.

All the separatist leaders are walking on eggshells. The roots of Kashmiri separatism are embedded in the Indian Constitution. At the time it was a case of no options, now it is a tool to chisel or hammer as the occasion demands. All this talk of resolution is just talk.

Until now it was only the politicians who took the high moral ground. Now, militant organisations too have joined in. It isn't anymore about democracy versus separatism, but 'show old women being carried to voting booths' democracy versus 'poll boycott' democracy.

Sajjad Lone decides to contest elections from Baramullah. Instead of giving a straightforward reason, he says, "morally it was impossible for me to continue without seeing if I enjoy people's support."

This would be seen as a moderate stand. Let us rewind to 2002. His father Abdul Gani Lone was killed. He who had made it clear he had nothing to do with the Indian government was being touted by the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee as the "lone moderate voice". The PM from a blatantly Hindutva party was handing a posthumous certificate to a blatantly separatist leader who had once commented that his life was in danger "wherein many guns work at the same time."

Sajjad says today: "At the end of the day, the man who takes up the gun is responsible for his own actions. We can't criticise them because we are not risking our lives, but, as a Kashmiri, I feel politics should have a much bigger role in the current world scenario."

It would be premature to see this as a cop-out. No militant has ever asked to be shielded and, whether they carry guns or not, people are put behind bars.

I do not know what Sajjad's idea of morality is and why it is so important when the ground realities require a bit more than kahwah for the soul. Will he be indebted to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, whose father Dr. Farooq had cut down the senior Lone's security by half when he was in cahoots with the NDA government? Seriously, what morals are we discussing? When did the National Conference last talk about bringing peace to Kashmir with the Hurriyat?

Omar Abdullah who is sitting in as CM - and, make no mistake, this is a papa-run enterprise for after he was sworn in, the father started humming the song, "Papa kehte hai bada naam karega, beta hamara aisa kaam karega..." - has clearly said there is nothing like soft separatism. "We believe autonomy is the way forward. And it is within the constitution."

So, why is he a legitimate leader and the others separatists? They all talk about better roads, education, and employment. How many pay heed to the figures of undertrials given by human rights organisations? Separatism in some areas is seen as the ideal, many 'innocent civilians' are in fact supporters of militancy. Local organisations in the Kashmir Valley were the result of disgruntled groups who waited for some solution. They were young people who had seen members of their families killed. I emphasise young because these polls are about youth icons and almost all the leaders in Kashmir fit the bill.

During the last assembly elections, the venerable Times of India got a market research agency to survey young people in various cities on the Kashmir issue. Rather tellingly, Kashmir was not on the list. Jammu was. Their questions were of the kneejerk variety: Should India let go of Kashmir? Has Kashmir been pampered by the Centre? Can it ever be integrated into the mainstream? Should India hold on to it whatever the cost? If Kashmir secedes, would it be under greater threat?

68% wanted Kashmir, even though it has been neglected by the Centre and yet they believed that it could be integrated into the mainstream. Why did the poll not spell out clearly what it conveys? Are we talking about scrapping Article 370 so that our yuppies can invest in property for their sloping-down-the-Gulmarg-snow moment?

Although 59 per cent said they wanted India to keep Kashmir even if the human and economic costs were high, they felt that Kashmir's secession would be a greater risk to the country. Great urban analysis. Let our soldiers and civilians die, let the country spend a fortune protecting a weak border. Why? Because the threat is less than if the Kashmiris were to leave to start on their own. What does this mean? If the threat is after they have left, then we are under less threat now? Does this imply that the Kashmir issue is not such a big problem and the Kashmiris are just fine? Therefore, someone has been making scapegoats of them all these years!

Urban stupidity was in full public view because the newspaper carried a picture of protestors in Srinagar that went against its own poll findings.

This is even more relevant in these general elections. Interestingly, commentators on national television are suggesting that there should be a separate box in booths in the whole country for the electorate to vote for 'no candidate'. What right do we then have to question a poll boycott in Kashmir, which says the same thing, only in a less sophisticated way? Cynicism and protest aren't the prerogative of pontificators.


Before the Taliban: Memories of Peshawar

Before the Taliban: Memories of Peshawar
by Farzana Versey
Countercurrents, May 12, 2009

As the city is on edge, and friends are being seen as enemies, I want to share recollections of the times I spent in the capital of the frontier province on the trips I made to Pakistan between the years 2000 and 2007.

* * *

We were hungry. I told Salim, my guide, I wanted to eat at an authentic Kabuli restaurant. Breads were being baked on upturned woks. The place was packed. I was the only woman in there. A scraggly-looking man came up to us and parted a curtain; the few men having their meal immediately got up and moved out without a word. Chivalry was unspoken and not brandished with a flourish.

The sofa felt wonderfully comfortable after the long drive. The moment I raised my eyes I found (Indian film star) Ajay Devgan staring at me. Stuck on the wall, his photograph typified the Afghan obsession with Hindi films.

We had a hearty meal. There was a stew, some barbequed meats and sautéed vegetables. The food did not leave you feeling full, cooked as it was with a touch so light that even flesh had a feathery texture. Bowls of yoghurt served as dessert.

Driving back to the city, we passed another route. This was Hayatabad; it was called the mini Islamabad due to its well-structured houses, trees peeping out of high walls, bursts of floral colour in the balconies. The inhabitants were invisible. Who were they? Salim explained, ‘Mainly Afghans, the ones who have made it big. But they can only rent the houses, not buy them. There are two million Afghan mohajirs here, so they say Peshawar should be theirs.’ --->

(more of the extract
here or on the link in the title)


Ask the vexpert - 17

Question: My partner showed me how guys masturbate and he accidently ejaculated in a water tub. I used the same water to wash my vagina after urinating. Now I am worried. Could I be pregnant because of this?

Sexpert: No chance of conception. Ask your partner to aim straight and warn you if he intends to do so again.

Me: I don’t think it was accidental on his part. He let his stuff reach the water tub because you would not be able to tell the quantity in a tub full of water. Not that the amount of semen matters, but it is a psychological need to prove something. I understand you are into the ‘save water’ campaign and needed to wash yourself with that same water, but it isn’t a good idea. You won’t get pregnant because the semen has been lost in this vast ocean; however, bodies of water hold several bacteria and small insects, including mosquitoes. Chances of them being impregnated are not to be ruled out, since they are small and their requirements different from human ones. Sperms are adaptable and tend to look for targets anywhere.

My only concern it that due to extreme jealousy and possessiveness, some of the impregnated insects might want to seek vengeance and you could be the target. If you contract any illness due to bacteria or get a sharper mosquito bite than is normal, then do see it as the ‘other woman’ claiming her rightful share. If any of these visitations occur after a period of time, it could well be the offspring and their desire to seek roots. It might seem difficult to accept, but since your partner could be responsible for several bastard vermin, it might be wise to prepare for your role as stepmom.


Obama's Men and a Pakistani woman

When you read a headline like, ‘Obama pledges to invest in Pak democracy’ you do begin to wonder as to how democracy has become just a banking institution where you put your funds and then watch them grow. It is leader-to-leader and has nothing to do with the citizens.

Washington also began a detoxification process to rid Pakistan of the extremism it has nurtured at home to counter its obsessive fear and hatred for India, telling the country’s leadership again and again that it did not have to dread its eastern neighbour but its own home-grown militancy.

Pakistan knows that India will not initiate overt action; it has always known it. The American government does not. Or, it knows and looks the other way, trying to make smoke visible to consolidate its ‘possibility of fire’ theory. Pakistan has had to deal with home-grown militancy for a very long time, just as India does. This barter system being propagated by Obama is really a smarty tactic. He promised to give military aid to the country “to get the job done” like some feudal lord directing his minions.

In order to achieve the goal to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” al-Qaeda and its allies in Pak, “we must deny them the space to threaten Pakistani, Afghan or American people.”

The al-Qaeda is the enemy of the United States and we know how it all started. A civil war is being made into a full-blown battle because of US presence. And to make things worse, Obama says that this is a threat to the US. The monetary aid is probably to keep the fight going, divert funds and tell the patriotic American people that this is for their own good. They must, therefore, not think about the layoffs, the recession, and the pathetic economic conditions. The ‘for your own good’ theory has made the US administration work out disastrous strategies in Afghanistan earlier and, later, Iraq. Both times they did not return with the intended targets…and Saddam Hussein was not the target. He was made one to justify the empty hands returning without the weapons of mass destruction.

“I have long said we cannot meet these challenges in isolation, nor delay the action, nor deny the resources necessary to get the job done. And that’s why we have a comprehensive (Af-Pak) strategy for the region,” said Obama.

Sure. Increase the defence budget, get more soldiers ready. These challenges are indeed isolated because each region has its own specific dynamics. Swat is not Buner, and the reaction of Islamabad to the two will be different. So, how does the US assume it knows better?

The Af-Pak strategy (a term that itself reveals ignorance) is one more sound byte till the troops go marching in.

- - -

Since I love reading more into pictures than appears, here goes:

Obama is on centre-stage, naturally, looking earnest. His left hand is held up to emphasise a point but more to his home audience rather than the leaders flanking him. The wedding band is visible conveying the image of the family as a unit, symbolising the country as a unit

Karzai’s hands are joined together but there seems an opening between to keep options open; he is listening and his head is slightly bent towards Obama, and that could convey that he would probably be easier to tackle.

Zardari too has his hands joined and there is no room to manoeuvre; they are on the table, which means he won’t take risks. He is looking straight ahead, so the possibility of his listening through one ear and letting it out of the other are there. Also, he has a slight sneer, perhaps indicating that he knows more than he is willing to let out, or he knows what’s going on in Obama’s mind.

Based on just this one picture, I’d give Zardari marks for being the sharpest because he is playing his cards close to his chest and may spring a few surprises.

- - -

Tatheer Daryani, a Pakistani final year student of Fine Arts Pakistani at the M S University, Baroda, has used her own hair and blood along with mercury latex and glass in her works which are being displayed as part of annual display of art works to highlight the plight of women in Pakistan.

"I cannot explain my art work in words and one has to see it to understand it. I myself wanted to be a part of my art work and I, therefore, used my own blood and hair while sculpting my idea into a definite form.”

I am all for such ‘subjective’ use in art and literature or any creative endeavour. I wonder, though, whether the avowed purpose truly manages to convey what it sets out to do. Blood and hair are universal, but would red paint and artificial hair not convey the same emotions. Had we not been informed would we even know?

Will the attention now not be on the artist’s blood and hair rather than the message she wishes to put forth? If it were about a personal journey, one can well understand. This is not to rebut such attempts but to question aloud about how much reaches how far. It applies to all of us who endeavour to do so.


The maulvis and swine

As we all know, the mullahs in India have become very hip and happening; they talk about voting, democracy and even liberals like Ms. Sham are praising them for not burying Pakistani terrorists and walking all the way with other liberals in peace marches.

I have already mentioned the fatwa for elections in response to queries from Muslims.

Here are a few queries I too have about how Muslims must react to the swine flu and other porcine issues:

  • Does contracting the swine flu make a person less of a Muslim?
  • If someone refers to a Muslim house that is not neat as a 'pig sty', can the owner forgive the person or must s/he attempt to cleanse that person’s mouth?
  • Does listening to film dialogues with terms like “sooar ki aulad” (offspring of swine) make one haraam?
  • What about phrases like “eat like a pig”, “ride piggy-back”…are they legitimate and acceptable?
  • Can Muslim children put their small change in piggy banks? If yes, does the same rule apply also to Eidi (monetary gift on Eid)?

These are questions of importance and it would be nice if some maulvi took time off and explained. I am dying to get involved in this fatwa business and I don’t care if I have to be called a swine for it.

The way we are - 3

The TV anchor was discussing poll strategies in Bihar. Actor Shatrughan Sinha is one of the candidates. Anchor looked earnestly at the monitor and asked Mr. Sinha, “Who would you say ‘Khamosh’ (‘Silent!” a word made famous for the way the actor enunciated it in his films) to and how?” Mentioning a few leading politicians, he wanted the man who might well get a portfolio if the BJP wins or play an important role to mimic this before a national audience. Is this a circus? A reality show where comic artistes do these things?

To his credit, Shatrughan Sinha he refused to do so, but he did use the word in a general context. Earlier people had to keep politicians happy; now it is the other way round.

The anchor gave a huge victorious smile as though he had managed to get a scoop. I can imagine him saying, “You heard this first on our channel.”

Yes, puff cake.

- - -

This is stupid. Not the statement itself, but how opinion-makers are reacting to “all options open”.

In a breathtaking display of brazenness, the Samajwadi Party on Thursday declared that it would extend support to whosoever was ready to sack the democratically elected Mayawati government, marking a new low in politics and offering a peep into the no-holds-barred bargaining that is likely after the polls.

Is this seriously news? Mulayam Singh used the word ‘sack’. That will be possible only when a government is formed or ready to be formed. It means the major party will be the Congress or the BJP. What happens if Mayawati allies with one of these parties at the time?

Why is everyone looking quizzically at this new brazenness when we have a history of it in some form or the other?

- - -

For all those who have been talking about the Gandhis as royalty – no originality there – I found this most amusing:

The caption said:
ROYALTY VOTES: Maharani Padmini Devi and princess Diya cast their vote in Jaipur

They are voting in a democracy. Where does royalty come in?


On Rahul Gandhi and the five-year warranty

I am sick of the way the electronic media went on about the Rahul Gandhi press conference. Ooh…he is talking about keeping his options open…he is coming into his own…who is better, Rahul or Priyanka?…is he now the voice of the Congress?...oooh, he is such a dimpled darling…

Does this mean charisma? Look, if you want to cater to the lowest common denominator, don’t mess around with important national issues.

Rahul Gandhi gave a press conference because he was acting as spokesperson for his party. He is the leader of the Youth Congress. He may become prime minister one day, which is not like playing Nostradamus…and charisma is quiet something else. Jayalalitha has it. And she is way different.

What if he talks about alliances. We have sundry people from the party on panel discussions alluding to these. So? The only one who came out with the most obvious comment was N.Ram, who said, “The Congress would have to ally with someone or the other.” Yeah. But saying this would cut down on airtime and the rest would not be able to go hmm…haw…haw-haw-haw…

And what does ‘coming into his own’ mean? And what is this whole sister-brother fight about? These are the same people who crib about dynastic politics and then they sit and ‘deconstruct’ it with their pip squeaking.

- - -

If you are in Delhi, then you are blessed. Go to a bar, a toy shop, a water park, heck, anywhere and they will offer you discounts if you have voted or plan to vote.

Here are some deals:

Across Delhi, retailers are offering a flood of discounts, ostensibly to encourage the potential voter to... well... vote. From May 7-10, Louis Philippe is giving 20% off on all purchases as part of its “Luxury to Vote” drive. Bausch and Lomb is offering 5,000 students who’ve voted in Delhi and Chennai pairs of daily disposable contact lenses free. Bikanervala restaurants are knocking 15% off from the bill. On May 8-9, Noida’s hip nightclub Elevate promises free entry and a buy-one-get-one-free on drinks. Showing your finger was never more fun. “Children will force parents to go to polling centres,” says Sanjeev Mehra, president, Khan Market Traders Association, and owner of Allied Stores, a toy shop that has a 10% discount on as part of Khan Market’s “Vote for Democracy Discount’’ promotion. A total of 50 stores are offering discounts ranging from 5% to 30%, says Mehra. He adds that the HDFC branch at Khan Market will be giving away gifts including travel bags and cheque-book covers to account holders who’ve voted. “We wanted to reward customers who’ve taken the trouble to vote and also encourage the young to participate,” says Sunil Gadgil, general manager, Bausch and Lomb.

Oh, so it was such a trouble to go and vote that now the citizens of our country need to be rewarded. You think these shopkeepers care? The freebies and sops will get them more customers, business will thrive, and the young who were not interested in contact lenses or drinking will now get the hang of it…

Shall we say India Shining again?

- - -

If this isn't bad enough we have Adnan Sami’s wife, who has filed a divorce petition and a FIR against him, saying that his father was “responsible for killing a lot of Indian soldiers and had even been honoured by the Pakistan government with the Sitara-i-jur’ar title for the killings’’.

Could be since he was a former Pakistan defence commander and had been in service during the 1965 war against India. One is touched by the lady’s concern for Indian soldiers and am sure she knew about it when she married Adnan the first time (she married him again after an earlier divorce). Why has it become so important now? I am not suggesting that her allegations against him are untrue…that is a different thing altogether. But, she is trying to gain public sympathy. How did she get this information? Obviously her influential family knew about it. And then it is public knowledge since she quotes from his book, 3 Presidents and an Aide—Life, Power and Politics.

She also says that Adnan did not attend the launch function in Delhi because it would mess up his career. You heard it right. This book was launched in Delhi, which is the capital of India. Obviously, we are not as interested in our Indian soldiers as this lady is, who is not Indian.

- - -

Did anyone notice this ad?

It is a rather exploitative use of the ink dot shaped like a car battery.

The country is “zero maintenance”? It has an “automotive battery”? And a “5-year warranty”. Aren’t we lucky? But this is only if we have a car…India’s vast majority doesn’t.

Moral of the story: It’s all about wheels. Within wheels.