When the swine get you swooning

Can you imagine Indian President Pratibha Patil saying that tur daal is good for mating or Asif Ali Zardari voicing his approval for magaz (brain) masala as aphrodisiac?

The Argentinean president has no such qualms. She is all for bacon in bed. Cristina Fernandez was speaking to what reports refer to as the “swine industry” representatives. So charged up is she over how pigs set the hormones aflame and the adrenaline to rush that she has even offered subsidies.

The climactic moment with hubby...when she became the first woman president

Her testimonial goes something like this:

“I didn’t know that eating pork improved sexual activity. It is much more gratifying to eat some grilled pork than to take Viagra.”

Now she knows through some pig-sty activity with her hubby, the former Prez, Nestor Kirchner. I think there is some feminist type lesson here. Men take Viagra. Therefore, it is men who will eat grilled pork. (I am assuming baked, fried, sautéed or raw are not as effective, or perhaps it is only a matter of taste.) Does the onus fall on men to not only perform in bed but also in the kitchen? If not, then does the woman cook it? Does she too partake of it? Having had their fill, both at the table and on it, is it possible that the male, being handicapped due to physical reasons, peaks less and the woman needs to channelise it elsewhere and finally does reach the top? Maybe even becomes president?

Just thinking aloud.

Argentina is traditionally a beef-eating nation and there are already discussions about how cows will be put to pasture and sheep will be left to graze, contributing precious little to the citizens’ culinary and carnal appetite.

The pork guys are happy. Said one of them:

“In Osaka, Japan, there is a village in which the people who reached 105 years old and ate a lot of pork had a lot of sexual activity.”

If the village is an example, it could mean that pork, like all red meat, adds loads of calories. But before the calories can make a home in the body, they are quickly burned off by sexual activity. Since people are kept busy and after a certain age do not have to worry about procreating, they enjoy themselves. There is less stress, more desire to live, so they live longer.

Can this module be replicated in other parts of the world? I mean, man on Wall Street downs a super large pork burger, calls up his partner at the university where she teaches who is slicing into a neat chunk of ham; they meet for a quickie, go back to stressful work, return late, down burger/chunk/whatever, try out some stunts, dream about the market crunch and academic crap. They are stressed as hell and will soon give up. On each other. Or, on the pork.

Sexy swines

It doesn’t quite work like Osaka. But it’s a nice thought that pigs may not fly, but could help humans to do so.

One more thing: Jews may be super rich and super smart and Islam may be the fastest-growing religion, but, sowy, being kosher will not get them far.

PS: Are the Viagra manufacturers going to announce a fatwa and place a price on the presidential head?

News meeows - 23

Tony Blair’s sycophancy towards the US is well-known. He is now defending himself before the first official grilling of sending 45,000 troops to Iraq in 2003. That is six years too late.

His remarks are completely off:

“This isn’t about a lie, or a conspiracy, or a deceit, or a deception, this is a decision. And the decision I had to take was, given Saddam’s history, given his use of chemical weapons, given the over 1 million people whose deaths he caused, given 10 years of breaking UN resolutions, could we take the risk of this man reconstituting his weapons programme? I believed ... that we were right not to run that risk.”

Was this his decision or his Party’s? Or was it prompted by America? Had Saddam caused deaths outside his country? Did anyone in Iraq seek western intervention? Now that no WMDs have been found, he is talking about the threat of Saddam reconstituting his weapons programme. Does the West not have the technical arsenal to know about such earth-shaking occurrences? Aren’t they warning the rest of the world about imminent attacks? Weapons programmes do not just drop from certain skies or sprout from the soil of selected nations. It takes some work and that can be traced.

The more amazing comment is Blair being concerned about Saddam breaking UN resolutions. Apparently he had already promised Bush his support to get to the weapons for, “If we tried the UN route and that failed, my view was it had to be dealt with.”

So, the possibility of the UN route failing was there. Could not Saddam have utilised those same loopholes and tardiness?

And then he has the gumption to state that the post-war planning was flawed:

“The planning assumption that...everybody made was that there would be a functioning civil service. Contrary to what we thought ... we found a completely broken system.”

What did he expect? After decimating a country pretending to help it, there would be a system that would work so that the West could arrive to the sound of bugles and put up a puppet regime?

This war was a lie and deceit. And there ought to be international legal provisions to try leaders of countries that use the UN as their toad.

- - -

Can Shahrukh Khan please thank the Shiv Sena? Or has he already done it much before the ‘controversy’? I hate to revisit the IPL saga, but when the first bits of news trickled in I did not read a single comment by the actor. He came in later to say that the Pakistanis and Australians must be allowed to play. Now, the Shiv Sena has asked its party’s loyal workers to tear posters of the not-yet-released film My Name Is Khan.

Last night I was watching a discussion between a SS guy and an activist, Gerson da Cunha. We know what the SS guy must have said, but Mr da Cunha wondered why the Shiv Sena has not done anything about ‘Bombay’ Port or the ‘Bombay’ Times. I found the latter bit intriguing. The gentleman, although among the few truly genuine people as per my instinct, is pretty much visible on Page 3. It was, therefore, a bit surprising that he brought this up. Also, he made a specific reference to the TOI “at Bori Bunder”! As many of you might not be aware, that stretch was called that, the Bori standing for the Bohris – a sect of Muslims. I think he was trying to make a point.

Anyhow, after that I changed channels and there was Sharukh on a news programme talking with Karan Johar and Kajol and they did their hokey-pokey routine. Is anyone from the SS objecting to the promos, the interviews on TV, in the newspapers?

No. Because the SS needs to be in the news and so do the people “in trouble”, especially if the trouble is going to get them the attention they need at the moment.

The Shiv Sena is a public service organisation that keeps our celebrities in fine fettle. The film is to release only in the second week of this month. Our Home Minister P. Chidambaram has come out and spoken about how he would like to see the Pak players in action. He said it was his personal opinion. The Home Minister cannot appear before the media and give his personal opinion on a subject that has the nation in thrall and is already a diplomatic disaster. No one asked him what his favourite video game was.

So, Shahrukh gets Congress support but being a good Maharashtrian he will also be nice to the SS…maybe an apology, maybe a special meeting with the Supremo where ‘the matter will be resolved’? And then a special screening with buttered popcorn?

- - -

How important is it for anyone to have news channels discuss Sania Mirza’s broken engagement? We know that the media is intrusive and we are. If it has to be reported, fine. Be done with it. But, no. They were playing Hindi film songs in the background and brought in the third party factor, too. Worse, her publicity-hungry father was telling media persons about “incompatibility”, and one anchor in the studio said how can they now become incompatible when they were compatible when they got engaged?

Clearly, this woman has no idea. Did the media ask them whether they planned to get married because they were compatible? It could have been that he liked watching her play.

This has given enough grist for the glossies and sundry snippets to debate the issue about women’s achievement and men’s insecurity. Ten people are asked ten questions in ten places and they give ten answers which effectively say nothing that we don’t already know.

For the 'don’t already know' and my views, watch this space. (Hah, isn’t that how the media keeps you hooked? I am just tryin’ my hand at it too!)


Let us buy Imran Khan

Every new “twist” in the IPL tale would be yawn-producing had it not been full of lies. Some West Indies cricketer suddenly needs surgery, so now we can get Pakistani bowler Abdul Razzaq. Everyone thinks it is ok. No security issues. Nothing.

I think if there are people in this country and in Pakistan who really believe that throwing balls and hitting bouncers is going to result in peace, then the man to buy is Imran Khan.

We are always worried about the Taliban, right? He is our man. He can talk to them. The moment he plays a few ‘peacing’ matches – and he will invest all that money in his cancer hospital, too – the good Talibs will shoo away the bad Talibs. Now that America too is willing to talk to them, it will be all good.

Imran Khan does not have a chance in hell, or heaven, to lead his country politically. He can try this out. Sold-out matches and the only Talibs who will be at our border would be those sending SMS messages for some competition or the other that is taking place. We will make more money; they will make more money. Who knows, Asif Ali Zardari, who has a fan following in Bradford, may even ask some Pakistanis to return home and sneak out for some much-needed rest and join Sarah Palin on a foxy talk show. Pakistanis will be relieved. India will be happy to play Big Bro once again.

And, yes, Parmeshwar Godrej’s swimming pool will be waiting to cool off Imran Khan. Remember he had asked on the earlier occasion that India should help Pakistani democracy?

Don’t ever call me a cynic again. I have given my thoughts on how to make piss.

Mukesh Ambani's India

Mukesh bhai is a smart cat – he used the Mumbai/Marathi taxi driver controversy to push the Indian liberalisation idea.

During a panel discussion at the London School of Economics he reportedly said that while India’s corporate world had moved away from ‘licence Raj’ after economic liberalisation, Mumbai’s “poor taxi-wala is still dealing with licence Raj”. The gathering applauded.

He was telling the diaspora achievers, “The achievements of our diaspora help India, but now is the time to come back. There are more opportunities in India.”

How have the achievements of the diaspora helped India? What diaspora is he talking about? The LSE-Ivy League one. The success stories. The return carrot is being dangled because it will make the liberalisation more acceptable.

His is a limited perspective. “We are all Indians first. Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi belong to all Indians. That is the reality.”

What about Jamshedpur, Junagadh, Singur, Nandigram? Why are the areas where the real money is made left out? They must not belong to everyone because that is where the riches will spurt from.

If we return to the first statement I quoted, his amnesia is palpable. Dhirubhai Ambani can be called the father of the Licence Raj. It was used rather effectively. Now, just because the son is sanctified by Forbes and, don’t forget, the brothers had managed to get the father legitimised by Wharton, the licence Raj is considered wrong. The “poor taxi-wala” got applause from an audience that will never have to deal with such situations; they are reaping the harvest of this same licence Raj that their parents made use of.

The issue is not of getting permits, but of not being permitted on parochial lines. Has Mukesh Ambani asked the cab drivers or the masala-papad waalas abroad to return? They too face discrimination in countries they have migrated to – be it on the basis of religion, language or place of origin.


The Lasting Leaf

The leaves had no autumn to shake them off. Yet, I began counting – ten-nine-eight-seven-six-five, and I’d pause. I liked the number five. It was akin to an S and I’d draw it with my toes on the ground. S/5. The leaves were all there on branches as they swayed in the gentle breeze.

The sun glared at them all day and at night it was too late to even see the tree. The counting became a pastime. It wasn’t ivy leaves, but leaves from a drumstick tree that was in the rear portion of our building. There was a balcony there and I’d set up my card paper and paints and brushes and daub colour recklessly. Or I’d sketch. It was easy to sketch leaves, slashes and slanting with thick veins.

I did not know whether I was Johnsy, who had lost all hope of living, or Sue who lived to make a living and hoped that Johnsy would live and paint the Bay of Naples, or the doctor who calculated her chances of living beyond science.

O Henry’s The Last Leaf had taken root in my thoughts. As a rather quiet and introspective girl, counting leaves was pretty much the sort of thing I’d do as much as I would watch a seed grow and be surprised as a bud would shoot up and slowly open out. This was supposed to happen and still it filled me with wonder. Each time.

The leaves were not falling, though. I lived in a place where trees fell in strong winds or during furious rains. Leaves, even after that fall, remained stuck to the dead trees. Slowly, I realised I was that tree because of my resolve to just watch it and persevere to see a story I had read come alive.

I knew the end, the end where the failed artist Behrman dies of the same illness as Johnsy – pneumonia (and, oh, I was so smart I knew how to spell the word) – within two days. Behrman who had stayed up late in the storm, brought out a ladder, climbed high and, just where the vine curled on the wall, had painted a leaf, green with a yellowish tinge. Johnsy, seeing that the leaf had not fallen got renewed hope that life did not want to give up on her, so she did not give up on it. Behrman who thought the idea of someone counting leaves and imagining that they would die when the last one would fall had been confounded, “Is dere people in de world mit der foolishness to die because leafs dey drop off from a vine?” He had put aside his bewilderment and given his everything to paint that life-giving leaf.

A failed artist he was, but he produced a masterpiece.

And I? The tree became a friend and I always paused at five…I knew the leaves would not fall. Drumsticks hung down from it and sometimes we picked the ones that lay on the ground. Those used in the curry would take me back to the leaves, leaves brightened by the sun and invisible at night. Painted in my mind.


Padma's Lakshmi and Sant Chatwal

The nation’s highest civilian honours are announced on Republic Day, and as always there is cause for heartburn for those left out and amusement to onlookers.

10 per cent have been hogged by outsiders – yeah, expats. We’ll get to them in a minute.

Here are the awards:

  • Padma Vibhushan: “exceptional and distinguished service’’
  • Padma Bhushan: “distinguished service of high order’’
  • Padma Shri: “distinguished service in any field’’

What is Farid Zakaria’s achievement when compared to the years of work by artists Akbar Padamsee or Ram Kumar (they have all got the Padma Bhushan)? Is it important to choose someone from particular fields? Think about how Sitara Devi was constantly sidelined and refused to accept an award not in keeping with her stature. I’d say all this does not matter, but these are public figures who have contributed a lot to their field, at times exceptionally so.

In a nation that prides itself on being on the go we could not find a worthy candidate who could be a jewel, a Bharat Ratna? That should make us ashamed and stop bragging.

It is not surprising that the Nobel, Magsaysay and Oscar winning guys will take away the Padmas too; they have to because India needs to prove that we also celebrate what they do.

This brings us to the most controversial award-winner this year – US-based hotelier Sant Chatwal. He gets the Padma Bhushan in the field of public affairs. As far as we know running hotels is indeed a public service, but that isn’t what the committee thought about. He has been a fund-raiser for the Democrats, primarily the Clintons. Hillary Clinton is Secretary of State. Let us not forget for a moment that political considerations always work.

You perform a surgery on a bigwig, you interview him, you clean his cupboards but do not wash his dirty linen and you have it made.

I think Sant Chatwal deserves it. He is the successful face of our country we’d like to show; he is from a minority community, he pushes the royal Indian version when his son gets married and makes us look like a land of elephants, which we indeed are. It is really bridging the gap between the traditional and the modern that is so important to us, although we have no idea about what really traditional means and what modern means. For us, tradition is ritualistic and modernity is of course westernisation.

There is no need to be surprised. Why is everyone mentioning the cases of fraud against him now? As though the awards committee does not know. He is our man in the US, and we need our men in the US. Sant Chatwal has been offered a lollipop to keep him happy; his happiness will spill over and fill the coffers of that huntress Hillary and we might get a little pat on the back for being tough on terrorism.

As on every such occasion, we were warned about attacks. The security agencies were also examining the tunnel on the border. This tunnel must have been a real quickie. Anyhow, I hope our guys were more prominent in the Padma lists; their getting awards for bravery is different.

Former CBI chief D R Karthikeyan, who headed the SIT which probed the Rajiv assassination case, has also been selected for the Padma Shri award. Now? Time to wake up.

I think there should be bidding for these awards. Really.

End Note

Can someone please tell me since when has Mile Sur Mera Tumhara become “The song of India”? It is about India, about promoting its “multi-culti”, in Naipaul’s words, but who decides on something being the song of a nation? And if it is, then why has it been revamped to look like a cross between a Bachchan-infused Mani Ratnam film and an ad for Lux soap?

Survival, Sacrament and the Marketplace

Making Haiti
Survival, Sacrament and the Marketplace

by Farzana Versey
Countercurrents, January 25, 2010

“I survived by drinking Coca-Cola. I drank Coca-Cola every day, and I ate some little tiny things,” he said. Wismond Exantus’s tale of survival conveys a larger lesson about charity franchising. As someone who worked in the grocery store in Port-au-Prince, where he was found after 11 days, his recollection of Coca Cola as opposed to “little tiny things” indicates that the miracle his brother spoke about could have something to do partly with this beverage and the conglomerate idea it stands for.

There are other ideas. His rescue took place as mourners wept outside the shattered cathedral for the funeral of the bishop; his family could not go to the place to save him because of looters, so they approached the rescue team. The looters are home-grown vultures; the saviours are outsiders.

We’ve been through the Pat Robertson viewpoint. Unfortunately, outside of his limited evangelism exists a larger one that sponges on similar thoughts. It is a ready market for do-gooders who may not express their religious fervour in such black and white terms, but the glorification of being blessed works just as well.

“I am a person who has been blessed,” said Jeremy Johnson, a Utah-based millionaire. “To sit back and relax and send a little money or whatever, it just made me feel ungrateful.”

Ungrateful about what? He was not responsible for the earthquake or for the delay in supplies reaching. He bought helicopters to fly essentials. In Jimani, which he has made his headquarter just across the Haiti border, he has set up a tent. Reports describe him with reverence for managing a “bare-bones operation”, dressed in frayed jeans (is this mandatory uniform or designer empathy?) where he sweats it out with only a small refrigerator providing energy drinks.

Strangely enough, his how to be a millionaire story is rife with fraudulent practices, but this, we are told, has not interfered with his altruistic work. He had earlier “provided a home for boys pushed out of a Utah polygamist sect”. And now he is in Haiti where, according to the Utah governor, people rushed to the helicopters for food and it became “really dangerous”. Therefore, Jeremy is a hero because he not only saves people, but saves dangerous people and those who belong to sects that are not morally up to much.

It is not surprising that he is working with Maison des Enfants de Dieu — Children of the House of God — orphanage to send these children to adoptive families. He has already managed 21 visas and transported them to the United States.

Apparently, bureaucracy was not an issue, although it is for his aid effort where he sees boxes of food on the tarmac. “As a result I even stole. There is a lot left to be done,” he said. This is precious, considering that the local looters were considered selfish and almost vicious.

Johnson is not a celebrity, so his compassion is not entirely driven by charity tourism. It is more about personal gratification: “My life is going to change from this, there is no doubt.” He is already planning the next move and has his shopping list of people who need to be set right.

Haiti, having overthrown the imperial yoke, has to allow itself into a numbing social colonialism and aid slavery. Seen as a tribal society it will now be refereed and guided by the superior Red Crosses. A while ago, I read this delicious comment by model Naomi Campbell when she was asked why she chose to raise funds for the UK flood and not for Africa: “I do Third World. I have been doing Third World since 1994.” One wonders about the expiry date of such vanity of the conscience.

Thirty-seven per cent of Europe’s population was destroyed by the bubonic plaque; ancient cities have been buried by volcanic eruptions. We have had El Salvador, Mexico, Burma, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Indonesia — all victims of natural disasters, not to forget Hurricane Katrina and the fires in California.

These calamities have scientific reasons and imbuing them with fatalism makes a mockery of the spirit of enquiry that ought to look into the dangers manifest in our abuse of the environment. Such wimpy sentiments are merely geared to sneak out of political responsibility. Or sneak in political power through the backdoor.


All it takes is a temple?

One more act that will be seen as a great gesture.

A Hindu temple left in ruin in a central Srinagar locality but preserved by local Muslims in the absence of anyone to look after it has been formally handed over to a community group of Kashmiri pandits.
A statement issued by the Kashmir Pandit Sangarash Samiti (KPSS here said, "We at Kashmir Pandit Sangarash Samiti feel honoured by the stand taken by the local Muslims to save the temple. This clearly indicates that due to the few unscrupulous elements the whole community or society gets involved."

Who did they save it from? Terrorists? Others from the majority Muslim community? If it was left in ruin, why did the Muslims preserve it? Did they also preserve homes of the pandits? If they did, why is that not highlighted? And if they did not, then what is so important about the temple? I ask this because it is said that with assurances from the local mosque management committee some people have relocated “to the area to take the control of the temple”.

Who is this mosque committee and is it running the state? Who has given it the right to decide whether it can keep anything and anyone safe? What if it fails to do so? Will the strong pandit lobby again start on ‘Kashmiris and their Pakistani affiliation’? Does it take one temple to bridge a divide that was cleverly manipulated by politicians?

And is this organisation (KPSS) the representative of all Kashmiri pandits that it can ‘take over’ the temple? What if other groups want a share of the godly pie? What if they have a different opinion? Why is it emphaised in the report that the Muslims chose a Friday to hand over the temple? Because, it is an important holy day and there would be peole gathered for prayers and they wanted mileage. Simple.

It is all about garnering mileage. One pandit spokesperson even said:

“This will be known as the best example of the traditional bonds between the two communities have not fallen apart completely and there is hope and chance revive it completely provided.”

Is such a gesture evidence of a traditional bond? Do the pandits forget that many of their homes were in fact preserved, just as many were destroyed, along with those of the others? Do they forget that they got a not-too-bad deal from the respective governments? Do they forget that the Panun Kashmir group was separatist in nature? The bonds ought to be deeper than this exchange of temples and mosques when people are being killed everyday.

What has to be revived is trust and that won’t come with some fellows from either side playing footsie with various establishment types. The local population is a helpless witness in most cases. Therefore, I’d like to know who is manipulating this from behind closed doors.


Ask the vexpert - 21

Question: I run a cyber café. Sometimes, customers come, masturbate and ejaculate here without my knowledge. Sometimes the fluid spills onto the keyboard and mouse and I end up touching it. I have the habit of smoking and tend to smoke or eat chocolates right after touching the dirty keyboard. Could it lead to an infection? Please help.

Sexpert: No harm will come to you. More harm will result from smoking.

Me: There are two issues here. It seems like the dirty keyboard excites you and makes you perform oral acts such as eating chocolates or smoking. I would suggest that you indulge in these acts without touching the keyboard that has heated electrons which may keep alive certain germs increasing the possibility of getting infected. If you do run your fingers over it by mistake, type ALT+CLR+ ESC.

Regarding your customers, you may provide special chairs that have seat fastening belts and hand shackles that provide limited movement. You could also have laptops so the mouse is not used. Make sure a timer goes off every five minutes. The possibility of some users finding all these things pleasurable remains but at least your equipment will be safe.


From no conspiracy to shoo

“There is no conspiracy theory that is going on — as is being reported in media. The media is biased at times. The media is responsible (for the Pak-players fiasco). The media doesn’t want to report on things that should matter. The media only wants to sensationalise.”
Lalit Modi, chairman of BCCI’s IPL subcommittee

“The reasons for dropping (Pakistanis) were understandable in the current scenario. The franchisees couldn’t provide for the security of the Pakistani players and hence decided against bidding for them in the auction.”
- Shilpa Shetty, Rajasthan Royals co-owner

“Pakistan needs to think why it has not been able to create the conditions that can convince people here that it is serious about bringing to book the 26/11 plotters."
- the Congress asking for some introspection on why its cricketers were shunned

Two days ago everyone was singing a different tune. The question of availability of cricketers is not the same as our inability to provide them with security. The media might have gone into overdrive, but when it suits the IPL they want the same over-the-top reportage. Remember the cheerleaders?

Interestingly enough, news reports tell us that the Congress and the BJP “unite” on this issue. This isn’t about unity, but riding on the bandwagon.

The Pakistanis are responding with equal fervour. I say, if there is a problem that they are being sidelined, they should ask Wasim Akram to resign as coach immediately.

Now, let me tackle our government’s statement.

Who are the people that need to be convinced? The IPL franchisees? Do all of them think alike? The cricket-crazy public who would have liked to see the Pakistanis play?

The GOI has latched on to an issue that it said it had nothing to do with and connected it with the 26/11 attacks. How is Pakistan to convey seriousness if just suppose it is not serious? And if it is not serious, then it is for us to introspect since they are clear about it.

Incidentally, if someone has murdered do you expect him to prove that he has killed? Isn't the onus on the victim’s family to stand as witness and the police to look for clues? Why would Pakistan bring to book the plotters? I am afraid, it sounds stupid.

We can ask them to stop infiltrating, we can discuss terrorism, but to try a specific crime that is committed on our soil? This is like asking dacoits to surrender or criminals to confess. Given that we have Ajmal Kasab in our prison and a cop has mentioned how he spoke to one of the handlers posing as a waiter, are we not upto the task?

The Veil Wail

The Supreme Court has done the right thing to reject the petition permitting burqa-clad women to get voter ID cards without revealing their faces. The bench said:

“If you have such strong religious sentiments, and do not want to be seen by members of public, then do not go to vote. You cannot go with burqa to vote. It will create complications in identification of voters.’’

Absolutely. As it is, there is double and triple voting and poll agents cannot identify those people, so it is also possible for the veil to be misused.

However, it would have been more prudent for the judge not to mention religious sentiments at all, for they ought not to matter. This was a petition filed by an individual that stated:

“It will hurt their religious sentiments and the Election Commission must not insist on ‘purdahnashin’ women to be photographed for the inclusion of their name in the electoral rolls.”

The ‘their’ is not universal. If any of these purdahnashin women happens to be arrested as a suspect for a crime and needs to be paraded for identification, would there be any objection, knowing that she could be innocent and her life and reputation are at stake?

I truly find it ridiculous that the petitioner’s counsel has said it “would amount to sacrilege as their photographs would be seen by many men working as polling agents and electoral officers”. So what? Are those guys so besotted by veiled women that they will spend their time looking at the pictures? By pushing forward these ideas, it is such men who make what they consider respectable akin to some sort of pin-up.

The newspaper report mentioned the protests in France by the clerics. This was unnecessary for the dimensions were different. Besides, what is the point?

I only hope the Indian mullahs keep their mouths shut. If they are so enthusiastic, they can get into burqas themselves and then fight the battle in court.


Exhibiting Sex?

I thought we'd finally realised the importance of erotica when I read about the proposed sex museum in Mumbai.

Turns out that it will educate people about sex and sexually transmitted diseases; more importantly, about HIV and AIDS as it will have a "walk -through" to explain the new developments in the field

Some points:

* Would this qualify as a museum, since it serves no historical or aesthetic purpose? There are science museums but larger programmes being deliberated upon in them.

* Did the BMC manage to get space only in the Leprosy Hospital? This immediately puts sexuality and its resultant ailments in the category of real illnesses. I am not shunning leprosy, which needs to fight another battle for understanding. But, how are the two connected?

* What is the purpose of talking about such a museum as an attraction? Will tourists visit it to learn about the exotic Indian version of sexual diseases? Will young people truly benefit from such knowledge? Is some government organisation going to decide and will it, therefore, suffer from prudish ideas and red-tapism?

When we should be outsourcing, we don't. It would be ideal to get a business house to put up works of art, slide shows, history of sexual mores from the past to contemporary times. There could be a section on commercial sex work too since we encounter it in the street as also in cinema. It is time to face reality head-on.

It need not be salacious. This teachy preachy attitude does put people off.

The reason I mentioned private ownership is because they will display it well and there is little fear of exploitation because they are as afraid of sex mucking up their reputation. Imagine being pulled up for a sexually-loaded misintepretation!

The governmnent will anyway have the power to revoke the license.

Just let us get over this sex as education. If that is the intention, the BMC can put one of those guys selling oils and herbs to educate people about how to get rid of 'patlapan' and other weaknesses. Or they could have an astro parrot picking out cards to read out the fate of sinners.

Heck, I am making this sound interesting. No. A sex museum has got to celebrate sexuality and not make it into a malady or make a mockery of a malady that arises only partially due to sexual contact.

Show us the stuff we are made of.


Taxi, Taxi

I thought it was Raj Thackeray. But it was Maharashtra chief minister, Ashok Chavan, trying to convince us that is was important that taxi drivers in Mumbai will get a licence only if they are domiciled in the city for 15 years and can read, write and speak in Marathi.

This is not the Shiv Sena, but we must remember that Mumbai’s psyche has subconsciously imbibed the SS ideology. It is part of the anti-immigration move. Most commentators wonder how a cosmopolitan city can be like this. It is precisely the cosmopolitanism that is causing the problems. We are dealing with several types and now have them pushed against the wall based on different factors – religion, region, language, economic status, education.

Most cabbies are from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. As always, the cities biggies are saying, oh, let us stop them for a month and see how the city suffers. That is not the point. This is a selfish way of looking at things.

How many passengers can read, write and speak in Marathi? Even if they do, most prefer to speak in English or Hindi. English because it makes them appear superior and Hindi because it is the language of Bollywood. I have seen yuppie types converse in ‘Bhai’ underworld lingo! It is not unusual to watch a Raju driver type being addressed as “Boss, idhar say right turn maarna…oye baap, oopar bhejneka chance mangta kya?”

I have tried conversing in some Marathi with cabbies who insist on responding in Hindi. They are either sensitive about my lack of fluency or prefer to use another language.

The other argument about domicile would make sense if the Marathi drivers knew the city as well. The reason given is that they should be able to identify addresses. This is a problem, and I have encountered Marathi-speaking drivers who do not know.

Instead, there should be a system of a central office that can provide such details. With low mobile phone rates, it is not too difficult.

With the advent of private taxis, this will be a huge blow to the black-yellow cabs. Instead of language skills, there should be other mandatory rules – like insistence on running the meter, being polite to passengers, not refusing to ply to certain areas, clearly indicating the timings that a particular cab operates.

An anecdote during the month of Ramzan is worth repeating. I had to reach the airport. No cabs anywhere in sight. Finally, I found one. There was a traffic jam and he started grumbling about getting the wrong place to go to in Marathi to someone on his cellphone. I ignored him. Then the vehicle behind brushed against his cab. He got out, there was a fight and finally upon discovering there was no damage he returned. He started on this spiel about how he would get delayed for breaking his fast.

I started talking on my cellphone and did the Muslim act by interspersing the conversation with “mashallah, inshallah” and ended with "Khuda hafiz”. When we were close to our destination, he said he did not know where the terminal was. I directed him, although all the signs were there.

I had not realised that he had not stared the meter. “Soch-samajh ke de do (give what you think best).”

Hum pehli baar airport nahin aaye. Seedha bataa do, yeh ginti karma hamara kaam nahin hai (It isn’t the first time I am going to the airport. Tell me straight, I am nto here to count),” I said.

He demanded four hundred for a ride that costs not more than 250 bucks.

I had no choice and he knew it. I did tell him clearly, though, that this was nto the amount and he said he had come all the way and was getting late.

This was getting too much, so after paying him, I did not shut the door, but peeped in and said, “Aapka roze rakhne ka koi faayda nahin. Asli roza hota agar aap tameez se pesh aate aur tareeke se meter chalate. Ab jao aur iftaar manao aur apne gunaah ki muafi maango. Hamara koi nuksaan nahin hua hai, aapka hua hai inn paison ko lene ke baad bhi.” (Keeping the fast has not helped you in any way. True roza is when you behave well and follow the rules. Now go break your fast and accept your mistake. I lost nothing but even with the additional charge you have.)


Abida Parveen for IPL!

While Abida Parveen shared stage space with Shubha Mudgal, no one was willing to pay a paisa for Pakistani cricketers. Moral of the story: You want a quickie evening shindig, then fine. If it has to do with money and no halo of ‘we are one’, then forget it.

To cheez badi hai mast...dust?

The excuses dished out for no owner in the Indian Premier League (IPL) III bidding for a Pakistani player are ludicrous. The considerations were that the players should be available for the entire season. Did any of the Pakistani players clearly state that they would not? Don’t they sign some contract? What if any of the picked up cricketers perform poorly or are injured or threatened, then would they be still considered available? Kolkata Knight Riders bowling coach Wasim Akram wanted Mohammed Aamer. No go. This means that people who understand the game are not the deciding factors.

It is a clear signal that the Indian government has interfered. If a team says that it did not have any Pakistani players in the past two IPLs, they were just smart enough to read the mind of the Indian government or be on the side of the establishment. You might wonder how that could be the case when we do have regular matches. That is different. It is two nations schmoozing; it is not about wow, let’s do peace. This is about bidding. It has its own dynamics. It means someone is worth something; the monetary part is based to a large extent on talent and ability to perform.

Pakistan are the T-20 champions, and there could not have been a better way to put them down than this. It is like, look guys you might be the winners, but you amount to jackshit in our stakes. You don’t even go under the hammer. This was clearly decided prior to the auction, for if they knew about non-availability they would not even be considered.

It also conveys to the Indian government that the franchisees are very understanding of the real relations between the two countries and will not do any mollycoddling. This is not done for the sake of the team but to send the right message to the relevant ministries (industries, petroleum, information and broadcasting) that, boss, keep us in mind in future. Money is at stake in ways other than on the cricket field.

As regards security concerns, there is nothing new. Remember the Shiv Sena destroying the pitches and warning against playing with Pakistan? Remember that it did not stop cricket matches and we did our friendly act in Lahore and Chennai as a cover-up for the ingrained animosity?

Some reports have mentioned about how demoralised the Pakistani cricket team is. Don’t know about that, and it ought not to be the case given that they know the undercurrents. Shahid Afridi said:

“Cricket is like religion in India and Pakistan. Sport is the only way to bring both the countries together. It is disappointing.”

This is competition and no one is bringing the two countries together. Cricket ceased doing that long ago.

Murder, She Said?

I do not recall reading any book on rape, murder and serial killers specifically because of the subjects. I am, therefore, a bit surprised to find a study that states women fear becoming victims of crime so they turn to true crime books in an effort to learn strategies and techniques to prevent being murdered.

Reported in the inaugural issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science (Sage), Amanda Vicary and R Chris Fraley go on to say that by understanding why an individual decides to kill, a woman can learn the warning signs to watch for in a jealous lover or stranger. By learning escape tips women learn survival strategies they can use if actually kidnapped or held captive. It is possible that reading these books may actually increase the very fear that drives women toward them in the first place.

Unless these books are specifically of the ‘How To’ variety, this sort of assertion, and even the flipside of it, is quite disingenuous. We may imbibe by reading and characters do settle in our psyche if they are potent. But these rarely apply to how we conduct our lives. There may be people we meet who seem like someone we have read about; it is often the intriguing qualities that stay with us. I don’t think when we see an orphan we think of Oliver Twist or everytime we find a thief we go, “Ah, Fagin”. I have chosen a simple example to show just how simplistic such studies can be.

There may be books on rape that a woman reads about but she will not be prepared for it. Have they talked to rape victims? Did they see the signals? If not, does it mean they don’t read the right books?

About being drawn to such “gory” stuff, there appears to be an element of negativity attached to it, as though this is not quite a woman’s thing to do. Even more appalling is the assertion, “But we do know that women, compared to men, have a heightened fear of crime despite the fact that they are less likely to become a victim.”

Less likely according to what yardstick? On what basis is this heightened fear measured? This is not a competition of who is victimised more and on what basis. The fact is that crimes are committed and both women and men are killed, maimed and psychologically and physically abused.

It appears we are a bunch of crime-fearing females. Imagine a woman enters a bookstore wearing a long jacket, all covered up, riffles through the pages of some romance novels and then stealthily her feet take her towards the gore. She sees knives, blood, and bodies on the cover and thinks, hey, this just might save me as she reads the back jacket. At home, she lounges on the sofa – after bolting all the doors and windows – and then gets drawn into the thriller. Instead of just reading it and perhaps getting a little spooked out, she makes mental notes of what to look for and what to avoid.

And then the bell rings and the child she has given birth to stands there with muddied clothes and she lets out a scream, “Help!”

The study reveals that women learn to be very very careful because women don’t understand something called mystery.

Oh, duh. Give me a break or I’ll bite.


Fishy Men

Imagine you are sitting with a man at a restaurant and taking a nibble of something that he feels is not right and ticks you off, what would you do?

Now replicate this social setting in marine life. Labroides dimidiatus don’t take nonsense from their female companions/compatriots. They whack the poor female fish if they as much as eye some parasite or salivate over mucus underwater.

Live Science conducted a study at the Zoological Society of London regarding this “three-party dilemma” – man, woman and target using an underwater plate to represent the client fish:

The plate contained both fish flakes and prawns, with the latter being the much preferred cuisine.The researchers took away the plate if any of the fish ate a prawn. They saw that the male cleaner fish—even in this unfamiliar lab setting—would punish, or chase away, the female fish if the females ate a prawn. Once the females had been chastised, they were less likely to gulp down prawns.

Apparently, this is not altruistic because by saving the client, the male ensures that he gets good grub for himself. As a bonus he is covered with the halo of being protector and patriarch.

The docile female just flaps her fins and goes hungry aiming to be marine life’s Kate Moss. I should think it has its benefits if the larger fish avoid skeletal food and these females are saved. It could soon prove to be a woman’s world down there.

Sunday ka Funda


Pat Robertson and the Eclipse

A doomsday quick-fix prophet on TV last night was holding forth on how the solar eclipse would muck up our lives based on our zodiac signs. After he had told us just how bad it would get, a godman sitting next to him asked us to place a pot and add things in it according to the level of muckery, recite some verses a given number of times and then maybe we would be saved.

It was appalling to watch this on prime time. Would children, who ought to look on such phenomena with a sense of wonder, be instilled with information? I would deem this x-rated because it affects the mind. Instead of seeing it as a natural happening and seeing it through at least some scientific prism, they are fed this rubbish.

There are two aspects to this:

  1. We keep away genuine interest and believe everything in nature can have dire consequences.
  2. The way it is projected, only one belief system was being promoted. I do not know whether Muslims and Christians have strong superstitions about these matters. There are ‘practical’ things I recall, which may or may not have any scientific basis. It is disturbing to see religion being pushed in this manner.

This brings me to Pat Robertson’s ‘Haiti deserved the earthquake because of its pact with the devil’. He obviously does not know about quakes in Los Angeles and how buildings are specifically designed to avoid tremors.

It is disgusting to see an island that was occupied by force by the United States, had several coups, became a slave to the French, and survived it all despite still dealing with debilitating poverty as some victim of voodoo.

Commentators have talked about racist overtones. Haiti, unlike good little black slaves, threw off imperialist shackles. If it was doomed, it was going to be on its own terms. Now the world, especially the big superpowers, cannot stand the idea of such obstinate self-respect on the part of people who are not supposed to be anything but dust underfoot. No ready theories are available, so the best one to pull out is the one with god. God has got to be White, so Haiti is in cahoots with the devil.

The logical question would be: If god is kind and all that, then why would s/he cause this destruction? If the devil is a real opponent of god, then why would the devil let it happen without putting up a brave fight?

What about natural disasters elsewhere? What about man-made calamities that we bring upon our fellow citizens, not to speak about other nations? What god or devil pacts are these about?

Meanwhile, Haiti’s hospitals have been destroyed and thousands are dying. It is an ongoing tragedy that needs to be addressed. Pop evangelism won’t get Haiti anywhere.

It would be easy to dismiss Pat Robertson, but he is not the problem. He is reflecting a problem that we have in some measure as societies on the brink of mental instability. You and I may not buy his thesis immediately, but it will register as something that someone believes. And this man has a huge following. He is dangerous because he thinks he is on god’s side.

At least the eclipse has the good sense to get off the sun after a while.


Outsourcing our security?

We have had news and opinions and theories about bullet proof jackets. Now comes another angle:

About six months ago, soon after D Sivanandan took over as Mumbai police chief, about 30 builders pooled in Rs 1.5 crore towards the purchase of bullet-proof jackets for the police force.

Our police chief says the money will be returned. If a loan was required, there are agencies specifically for this purpose. Builders constitute private parties and this was done in a hush-hush manner. It is appalling that builders were told to “do something for the city”.

This is not like planting trees or starting a cleanliness drive. Who chose the manufacturing company? Did the builders recommend any? Was the entire amount paid by cheque? Even if it was, is it not possible that the firm would agree to pass on some bucks for tangible benefits in the future?

Former IPS officer and activist-lawyer Y P Singh termed this a gross violation of government directives...

“…to accept charity from builders defies the principles of the Constitution. There could be cases where the police may have to investigate complaints against them.”

Not only is this an issue, we have to consider how it buffers the image of a slow-moving bureaucracy and a police force in desperate need. Builders are known to flout several laws; some are from Thane and Navi Mumbai – the burgeoning satellite areas of Mumbai where rampant construction has been going on. What would they have to do with bullet proof vests? Is it customary for them to indulge in such charity work? Why were these particular builders chosen? We do not have the very prominent handful. Does that convey something?

Another point is that with almost everyday something fresh appearing on these bullet proof vests, the main issues are being sidelined. It appears to be a shield in many ways.


We Indians don't get it

This Aman ki Asha surely won’t be a free lunch. We are still talking about peace this and peace that in a bubble gum manner. It’s getting to be a bit irritating. The TOI that has come to rhe forefront with this initiative devoted a whole page on how the “Gen-Now Flicks” will send us all in a tizzy because “India and the world love Pakistan’s BRAVE NEW CINEMA”. Aww.

Indians have loved Pakistani drama serials for years, and they were pretty brave and subtle. The reason for applauding this brave new cinema is because we want to extend our commercial space. The whole deal is collaboration, and it has nothing to do with political peace. So, we should just cut this and talk about what is on everyone’s mind – market economics.

Along with the main article there was a smaller piece by a Pakistani and I was quite amused to read some of it:

They (the audience) also love the man who played Munnabhai — Sanjay Dutt, fondly called “Nargis ka beta”.

This is utter rubbish and playing to some imagined gallery. I know people in the entertainment industry and I have met people of all kinds there. They do not refer to him as anyone’s beta; they might call him Sunju baba because they read our gossip columns and they know about his drug addiction and his prison term.

Even the ‘gay’ comedy Dostana had the women in hijab in splits.

Geez. This is a Pakistani woman and she is stereotyping the female population. Even if the women in hijab did go and watch Dostana, why is it so important that their being in splits about a gay comedy should be emphasised? Were the bearded guys wearing skull caps also in splits? And the women in jeans and the men wearing baseball caps backwards?

Come on. Grow up. Aman ki Asha is not going to happen by going along with this sort of cheesy and cliched caravan.

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Juvenile ideas of culture seem to prevail. Now, you can dine at the local Eiffel Tower. Why? Because we need to strengthen our French connection. I know many other ways we can do so, but shall let it pass.

Puducherry – Pondicherry – does have a French influence even today, but it makes no sense for this gross expenditure for a Rs 25 crore-replica because not many in France dine at the real place and this is not going to be a replacement for a trip to Paris for those who can afford to or wish to visit. With competitive travel opportunities, people are in fact travelling quite a bit and not many would eat there, anyway.

What will the replica offer?

If things go according to plans, you could dine at the multicuisine restaurant on the desi Eiffel Tower offering a panoramic view of the Godavari river, the Bay of Bengal, the ruined Dutch port, the seaside town of Kakinada, the Reliance gas plants and the lush green coconut groves of the Konaseema belt.

Honestly, they could just build a tower. The French who have made Puducherry their home prefer cycling down the roads or spending time at Auroville. This might give a kick to some neighbouring city dwellers for a while. That’s it. Why multi-cuisine? Camembert soufflé wrapped in paper dosa? Or crepes sprinkled with mulgapudi?

There are interesting little French restaurants serving pretty authentic food and don’t cost a bomb and don’t look down at gas plants. If the Ambani clout is at work we might have some Gujju fare too…pure veg and no frog legs. Thenk yoo.

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End note

As reports of another Indian being attacked in Melbourne ruled the airwaves on Saturday, the government appealed for “restraint’’ in reporting the incident, expressing fears that it would damage bilateral relations with Australia.
Is this what makes us want to be proud nationalists?