Why Can't Science Let Us Be?

If you don’t wear stilettos and still get orgasms, then pat your back. You are the last hope of science. It’s funny that ‘science-ologists’ think such theories need to be debunked. The “year’s worst abuses against science” by celebrity offenders is the annual list that is part of the Sense About Science (SAS) campaign.

The organisation’s managing director Tracey Brown sets the tone for the attempt:

"It's tempting to dismiss celebrity comments on science and health, but their views travel far and wide and, once uttered, a celebrity cancer prevention idea or environmental claim is hard to reverse. At a time when celebrities dominate the public realm, the pressure for sound science and evidence must keep pace."

By making an issue of it, SAS is in fact giving it celebrity endorsement. Why are famous people asked to put their lot behind prominent medical causes like HIV and cancer? Don’t they often become a reason for treacle-inducing stories rather than gain any merit based on a factual analysis or research? Most celebrities perform at rock concerts and charity balls for these issues. How does it reach the real target audience when they are cocooned in their gowns and dinner jackets parroting what one version of the sponsor group tells them?

If scientific endeavour reaches a dead-end because of rumours or what someone personally believes, then it does not speak too well about science. A small group of people who are completely besotted by what celebrities say does not constitute the population of the world. None of the views they have listed can cause any damage.

Here are a few and my take:

  • TV personality Nicole Polizzi: "I don't really like the beach. I hate sharks, and the water's all whale sperm. That's why the ocean's salty."

People do not like the beach for several reasons; some do fear sharks; sperm – or semen at least – might be considered salty, although human and whale sperm could well be different. And don’t we say that even a drop makes an ocean. So there.

  • American singer-songwriter Suzi Quatro: "I used to get a lot of sore throats and then one of my sisters told me that all illnesses start in the colon. I started taking a daily colon cleanser powder mixed with fresh juice every morning and it made an enormous difference."

How is this harmful? Anything done in excess is bad, but I suspect the keepers of science are also the keepers of the pharmaceutical industry and the medical fraternity, and how they’d like to replace the powder-juice combo with a nice little capsule.

  • Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, said that spending more time with horses had made her less allergic to them.

That is her experience. It is not like the whole of Britain or monarchists are going to line up at the stables to get rid of their horsy allergies, which they would be imagining about anyway.

  • Pippa Middleton: “It (cold water rinse) closes the pores and gives it a lift and shine... it really works.”

SAS tells us that hair does not have pores. All salons insist on washing off conditioner with cold water so that it does not become limp. How will it affect the hair to get a cold rinse?

  • Simon Cowell was ticked off for saying that he found vitamin injections “calming”.

Doctors use such placebos routinely, and many people are addicted to vitamin supplements.

  • Heiress Miss Ecclestone said her secret to prevent falling ill: “I have acupuncture to boost my immune system every month or so.”

Alternative medicine has been practised for centuries. She is using acupuncture as a preventive measure and not a cure.

  • Gwyneth Paltrow believes that a detox diet helped her liver and gave her “mental clarity”.

So? Don’t we harp on psychosomatic illnesses? Are people not uncomfortable if they are too full of themselves, so to speak? Getting rid of some of the elements might in fact make a person think clearly or at least not be so preoccupied with what is within.

  • Christian Louboutin, a French footwear designer, was taken with something a fellow party guest told him about shoes: "She said that what is sexual in a high heel is the arch of the foot, because it is exactly the position of a woman's foot when she orgasms. So putting your foot in a heel, you are putting yourself in a possibly orgasmic situation.”

An anthropologist or a psychologist would have the good sense to see it as body language or how illusions and analogies work.

Instead, they got a consultant in sexual medicine to ‘debunk’ this myth. Kevan Wylie, (“responded drily”, as the report states, which makes one wonder):

"A woman's foot may be in this position during orgasm, but that does not mean that putting her foot into this position under other circumstances will result in orgasm.”

The woman is not suggesting that, just as men do not get an erection if they hold a gun. She is fantasising.. The shoe industry uses such fantasies, too, as do other advertised brands. Why do some people find stilettos sexy and others think wedges are? Why do some like pumps while others prefer those mean leather boots?

I wish I had thought about this arched footwear…the image is wonderful.

The science saviours can go work on their test tubes. I am thinking of little needles poking into me and a small shot of calming vitamins as I get under the shower to wet my hair with freezing water that will leave it shining and bouncy. I shall then go the riding club and inhale deeply as I get astride a horse. We reach the beach and I walk on my toes on the sand and ever so hesitatingly dip my feet in the ocean. The fear of sharks lends an edgy feeling as I cup my hands and gather a bit of salty water.


The Ambani Matron Saint

Hamare paas maa hai: Kokilaben with Anil and Mukesh

It does not matter whether the Brothers Ambani – Mukesh and Anil – will do the business tango or not. As the family got together for the memorial of Dhirubhai on his 80th birth anniversary, it was obvious that the Reliance empire is still holding on to Ba’s apron strings. Mother Kokilaben has shown great business acumen earlier and she seems to run the family in just such a corporate manner. Mukesh and Anil may address share-holders, but when it comes to making definitive statements, whether it is about her late husband or her sons, it is the matriarch whose word counts. It may be a mask, but with the sanctity that Indians have for the mother figure it gains extra currency.

She has seen the building of one of the major players in the country; she was with Dhirubhai during his struggling days, the days he fought to find a place, the days he manipulated the System, the days he became his own System. The Ambanis were the envy of many industrial houses because they were together. Dhirubhai did what most corporate patriarchs do not – he reposed faith in his sons. He knew who was good at what and delegated the tasks accordingly. It was not quite equal, but it was just. Just to his shrewd eyes. And that is what mattered. It was left to Kokilaben to be the General Manager or a sort of bureaucrat who knows more about the files than the politician who signs the papers and takes the credit or gets the flak for them.

Bahus can dance saala: Tina and Nita

So, when they met at the village Chorwad in the mansion they have built, it was all about carefully-planned sentiment. The media was allowed to shoot in what was a private ceremony. We caught glimpses of the brothers doing the dandiya, and the bahus playing traditional daughters-in-law as opposed to their more glamorous avatars when in Mumbai and their silent rivalry – Nita with her school, Tina with her art, both doing it for the benefit of society, of course. This was all about custom and it was custom-made. There was uniformity about the clothes, the camaraderie, the smiles.

Who cares whether or not it is good for the economy if the two brothers get together. It may certainly be good for their business, but again it is not an equal game. Kokilaben wearing bright pink spoke before the cameras, she said, “Agar pyaar nahin hota tau saath kaise hote (If there was no love, then why would they be together).” No one would dare to ask why they were together now (though they performed the havan at different timings) and for how long and what would happen once they reached their respective homes and went on their separate holidays.

That is not the point. This was the matriarch’s diktat and a clear signal to the business fraternity and stakeholders: When you buy one, you pay for the other too.

Of Ombudsmen and Wo(men)

I think we need an ombudsman to overrule the ombudsman who will be overruled by everyone who knows what an ombudsman is not supposed to do.

Anna had a “wish list”. It just so happens that his wish is not his command. Why is his team's moral high horse better than anybody else's? There is nothing to celebrate about him, his movement, the Opposition, or the ruling party. After all this utter waste of time and effort, I think we deserve a couple of conspiracy theories.

  • Why did the BJP chicken out? Perhaps, the party had a tacit understanding with Team Anna that if there were not sufficient crowds – don’t bother about the traffic jams, in Mumbai cows, strays and fallen trees, all cause traffic snarls – then the BJP will not vote for the government’s Lokpal Bill even with amendments. This will give Anna reprieve from the fast, which he should have not undertaken for health and other reasons anyway. And it will give the anti-corruption movement something to do in the New Year.
  • Another important factor could be that this would take away the allegations of RSS links of Anna that they are so concerned about, and in effect the BJP might wish to distance itself from for a while to put on its moderate face in the make-up van.

Okay, let us get serious. I do not understand numbers, so will skip all that. There are some details here.

I'd like to address some points BJP's Sushma Swaraj made:

“It appears the government is placing this bill in a fit of rage”

It was pushed into this sewer and naturally came out smelling of turd.

“The federal structure of the Constitution is being violated”

And what was Anna’s movement about? The Constitution?

“Centre wants to make the Lokpal model optional for states, but the bill you have brought makes it mandatory”

True. The river flows from the seas. Same logic.

“18 states have Lokayuktas. Many of them have better bills than the ones you have brought. Like Uttarakhand. Your bill will override those. There are better ones like the bill that Karnataka passed long ago”

So, the Lokpal Bill was already there for 43 years. If that is not good enough, then it is all a matter of how you look at it. This is not a case of ‘uski kameez meri kameez se safeid kyon’. Incidentally, Mamata Bannerjee too is putting up a fight, so you cannot keep everyone happy all the time.

“Minority quota: Reservation in constitutional bodies is not allowed”

In principle, agree. But the ‘Jan’ Lokpal Bill was trying to over-ride the constitution. Besides, if we accept regional variety, then why not caste, class and religious ones? I mean, when you bribe someone with a khokha it is different from using ‘good offices’, hai na?

“Government is acting as if this bill is a nuisance and it just wants to get over with it”

True. Like fast-track justice for certain media-hyped crimes. If you set deadlines, pour out in the streets, have your demon Santas go around demanding support, then the government will play politics with even more vigour. It just has the advantage of being the driver.

“We wanted CBI to be freed from government control. But this bill does the opposite. All power lies with the government”

The Armed Forces are exempt and will be tried through regular and civilian channels. The CBI is an indepenedent agency. This is the time to prove it. The BJP can do what it wants when and if it comes to power.

“CBI’s prosecution and investigating wings need to be separated, with the latter handed over to Lokpal. This way, the government’s hold over the CBI ends”

Fantastic. Why not name it the Federal Bureaus of Investigation. We can have our own FBIs.

“Inquiry against PM comes with too many safeguards. Are you increasing transparency or checking it?”

The prime minister is not directly elected to the post by the people. It is the party that decides. So, in effect, there is no transparency to begin with. The role of the Opposition is to raise issues of crimes of commission and omission on the part of the PM. That is transparency enough. When he appoints people, shuffles portfolios, it is obvious what is going on. What more would we like to know? Heck, we even know that Mukesh Ambani has told him he will invest Rs. 70,000 crore in India. And we know that the PM has given the Home Minister a good report, the same Mr. Chidambaram who was fighting with Pranab Mukherkee who was fighting about who first passed the file for the 2G spectrum.

“Either you correct this bill or I say with folded hands, please take it back and send it again to the standing committee. Let there be a detailed discussion there and bring it back in three months”

No need to fold hands. This was expected. Why wait for three months? Ah, Anna Haxare does not like winters, I understand.

The real cherry on the cake was from the CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta:

“I support a Lokpal Bill but not this bill”

Yeah, I support Marx, but not Marxism.

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The drama is not over. It will be tabled in the Rajya Sabha, then back to agitations. Meanwhile, here's my cheesy filmi line for the day: Thappad se darr nahin lagta Anna saab, bekar vaar se lagta hai....


Closed Doors: Band Darwaaze - Satyadev Dubey

Satyadev Dubey made me uncomfortable. On two occasions.

First: Prithvi Theatre. Lights out. Power outage. Everyone stood where they could find space – the foyer, near the entrance or in the lane outside. Many were familiar faces. The café was full with those who were not going to watch the play. It was always full. Writers, directors, actors, wannabes, has-beens. I stood near the tree at the curve of the entrance; a short stocky man in a kurta was ambling the distance of a few feet. Makarand Deshpande, whose play was being staged, introduced us. There was a short verbal exchange, but his eyes continued to speak, to probe. It was as though he was taking up the air around me, converting it into frost that would cage me in some unfathomable way.

I was already acquainted with his work (films and stage) and recall watching Sambhok Se Sanyas Tak (From Lust to Sublimation) at the Karnataka Sangh, not one of those charmed places where everything different is seen as ‘path-breaking’; the different was meant to be just that. No overdose of adjectives. Dubey was in some ways the Osho of the theatre world, and the serious aficiandos might take offence to it, which would be precious because he was offensive most of the time. His work was designed to hit where it hurt. His gaze unrelenting.

The second uncomfortable Dubey moment was again in the dark. The same stocky figure waiting at a park for a young girl, trailing her wherever she goes, a foreigner in a country that is supposed to be alien, but which is more like him than anything he has known. A playwright who has so dramatised his life that he is looking for a grand finale to it. Nothing else, or less, will do.

She is young, pert and full of ammo. On the face of it, a propah English girl, but slowly, with every professional failure, she unclothes herself before our eyes to reveal what she has always denied: Her alienness. She does not quite belong, so she is shunned. She is displaced and grudgingly has to admit that to be deflowered she needs not a gentle touch but to be roughed up. To unleash her anger, her potential. The music must rise from the waltz, the jive, the samba to a deafening crescendo of Antigone’s cry.

Dubey could not be for real. He acted the part he wrote in It Could Happen Only In London, taking you on a fantastical journey of a girl becoming a woman and a man turning into a boy. It is about age catching up with us or making us regress. About seduction. Violence. Ambition. Realisation. And at the end of it all the menace of futility being unable to prevent that glimmer of light from penetrating through its transparent wings.

Satyadev Dubey died yesterday and is closer to the sun now. But that night, tucked away in a lane in Juhu under canopy of fake stars, I had discovered the full thrust and throb of what “effing your head off” truly meant. It was about chasing an evanescent dream, and when it assaults resistance gives way to release.


Sunday ka Funda

"Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.”

- Albert Camus

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And must we not be generous to the past too and leave it the way it wants to, was meant to be? Not everything we have is great, not all that we give is wonderful, not all that we receive fills the emptiness. But it is there and we are there. It just might be something beyond the obvious...

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"The book of love has music in it
In fact that's where music comes
Some of it's just transcendental
Some of it's just really dumb

But I
I love it when you sing to me
And you
You can sing me anything"

A Christmas full of giving and acceptance to all...and...

The Book of Love - Peter Gabriel:


Character Assassination

Due to the untimely demise of one of my characters, I was in mourning and could therefore not submit the story on time.

This is a real note I sent years ago. A colleague had entered my name for a short story competition by the British Council. I was not terribly enthusiastic about such events, but since it required imagining, it was par for the course. I thought nothing about it and since I was not accustomed to writing for a reason, I wove the words at a leisurely pace.

A tap on my shoulder and a thick envelope served as reminders that I paid no attention to. The date of submission was gone. I folded the sheets of paper and put them in the envelope – the address and stamps were ready. My friends were still enthusiastic. I quickly grabbed a page from my diary and wrote down the note:

“Due to the untimely demise of one of my characters I was in mourning and could therefore not submit the story on time.”

What else could I say? I am not good with formal letters. Besides, it was succinct and happened to be the truth. The cat in the story had died. Obviously, I had killed it. Yet, its death was a departure, a turning point.

Recently, an Indian media house gave an award to a novel and the jury used a curious phrase for its choice: one of the reasons was “for its non-judgmental attitude to the characters”. How does a writer not judge a character when s/he has created it? This is not immaculate conception. You sweat over it, love it and get suffused in it, for however brief a time. The judgement lies in the nature of the relationship. The writer is the initiator and woos the character. It is possible that the character might mirror the writer. Introspection is also judgement. You are pronouncing a verdict on your thoughts and feelings.

Any objectivity would be forced. The character is because you are.

Back to my old story, I had written it for myself. In those days, there was no audience I was seeking or speaking to.

A few days later, rather uncharacteristically, I got a note from the British Council. It said, and I will rely on memory and promise not to exaggerate, that indeed I had missed the date of submission and rules would not permit my work for consideration. However, my accompanying note was rather interesting and caused much amusement and they could not but let me know that although the story would not be included in the competition, it was noticed.

I wondered whether dead cats could lick the cream.


Two minute noodle: Lokpal Bill

If we go by Team Anna logic, then the Opposition and independent agencies should be running the government. Forget everything else, it would spell the end of a real Opposition as it should be - to question, debate and give a contrarian point of view and not fight over the spoils of who gets to swivel in the chair.

If the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) comes within the Lokpal ambit - which the government draft rightly does not allow for - then all investigation will be left to whims and fancies and further delays or worse. The CBI is not the ISI.


India Copulated:The Dirtier Picture

This is a marketing gimmick camouflaged as a film. I went to a single-screen theatre to watch it. Alone. After all, this was about female empowerment. Sipping coffee, waiting for the door to open, I looked at the audience. Men – young and old. Women – young and old. One woman wore a burqa, but her face was visible; another one wore a tight tunic with pants, but her face was covered and only her eyes were visible. Weird. There was an infant, too. One elderly lady told me, “No one was willing to come along.” Aha, it was ‘The Dirty Picture’.

I had booked in advance and opted for a corner seat. The film began and at some point the dirtiness started with the protagonist making funny sounds while a couple is at it in a filthy room. Dirty, remember? It was not quite certain whether she was faking an orgasm or a crap. Just as the film is a confused medley. It does not even have the grace to be a parody; it is downright slapstick with the so-called bold dialogues not going beyond what you might hear boys in school talk about when playing with themselves. Yes, boys. Despite now claiming it is a work of fiction, the makers had pushed it as a biopic based on the real-life story of South Indian actress Silk Smitha – her overt sexuality, her exploitation and her ultimate destruction and death by suicide. It is an insult to her and to any kind of sensibility, even the crude.

Silk Smitha

For months news items and television promos were showcasing Vidya Balan, the actress who essays the part, in ‘character’. Bright clothes and a wink, irrespective of which programme she was on. The film has been declared a hit at the box office and almost all reviews and stories have been applauding Ms. Balan for her courage. This is such irony. No one ever thought of Silk as courageous. She was dismissed as a soft porn star. There are many such stories and the entertainment industry, including Hollywood, has used women. Those who make it to the big grade deny the casting couch. The others like Silk have no choice. They remain where they began, bathing under a waterfall or falling off slopes with an ageing hero.

Shyam Benegal’s Bhumika had tackled the subject with finesse, although it too had its love-making scenes and even a tantalising lavni dance by Smita Patil. It, too, was based on a real-life story. We could empathise with the character and her growth. Silk, on the other hand, does not at any point give us an opportunity to feel her pain or even her pleasure.

Bollywood has been commending the fact that a ‘respectable’ actress took up the role. This is hypocrisy and exploitative. They are using the story of a woman whose family lives in poverty in some village, and yet tacitly they are running her down. All this talk about celebrating the body is so much smooth talk. There are many such young women who perform dance numbers and they are called item girls. They go through the process of shedding their clothes, but no one says they are celebrating their bodies. They are well endowed, but no one says they are the ideal “voluptuous Indian women” as though it is a national asset. These women are low down and if they flick their tongues or bite their lips suggestively it will be deemed obscene.

The pampered star takes such a role as a “challenge”, implying the hierarchy. It is nothing short of patronising. The urban herd has certified that this is not sleaze. It makes them feel smug. Moreover, women are expected to understand that this is liberating and empowering. Did Silk have a choice? Will middle-class women “unleash their sexual side” without being branded, if not as floozies, then nymphomaniacs?

Ms. Balan who is on a high right now assisted by her PR machinery talks about Silk with a know-it-all attitude: 

“She’s unapologetic about using her body and her sexuality as a big ticket to fame. There’s no shame in doing it.”

No one has asked if she, Vidya Balan,  would have done so since there is no shame to it.

That would be putting a wet blanket over a hose-pipe assisted wet dream.

(c) Farzana Versey

New meeows - 33

Should any person holding high rank in the government take the oath of office in the name of god, any god? In secular India that boasts of being a khichdi culture and tolerant society a student, Kamal Nayan Prabhakar, filed a petition against the Jharkhand Governor Syed Ahmad for taking the oath by uttering “Allah ke naam par” (in the name of Allah). When the High Court dismissed his petition, he appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Bench pronouncing the verdict said:

“Your client has come with a sinister motive. He has tried to draw a comparison with the Constitution of Pakistan. World over in the mythology, god is described as formless. Why do you want to confine him to a name or image? It is very sickening.”

This is the problem. The petitioner has, technically, the rulebook on his side.

The petition says, under Article 159 of the Constitution, the Governor or other constitutional authorities can take oath only in the name of “god or Eshwar” or he/she may “solemnly affirm.”

This means that in India the formless god has got to have an English or a Hindi/Marathi/Gujarati kind of name. On what grounds is Eshwar permitted? Or even god?

It is fairly obvious that this young man was not merely invoking the law:

The petitioner submitted that if the trend goes on, it might encourage others to use their choice of personal deities like Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Hanuman, Ganesh, and Christ at the time of taking oath. 
“A new trend will emerge and will be continued whereby the Governor or any other dignitary of high post having faith in different religions would start taking oath in the name of different gods/spirits according to their beliefs and then there would not be proper following of forms of oaths which may lead to a Constitutional crisis.”

Why will it lead to a Constitutional crisis? Our politicians fall at the feet of godmen, and often follow their advice. They consult astrologers, numerologists, aura readers, and they do use various deities to get into power, even if it means causing mayhem.

Why has this issue been raked up only when someone invoked the name of Allah? Why not Eshwar? Only because it is permitted? Then the ssue of one religion taking prominence should have been raised. It is time that any godly reference is removed and the oath is taken with a mere “solemnly affirm”. We all know they aren’t solemn or affirming anything. On the other hand, since we know that, we may as well allow them to take the name of some god or the other, who we can subsequently blame for any “Constitutional crisis” that might arise.

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Anna with communists and Hindutvawaadis

Another Constitutional crisis or constipated one? Joining the Anna Hazare bandwagon for political gains is like putting the cart before a lame horse. You aren’t going anywhere with this one.

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Amina bint Abdulhalim Nassar was beheaded in Saudi Arabia for practising witchcraft and sorcery, which are banned. One is not quite sure whether she really was a ‘witch’ or she merely did something that a patriarchal society cannot digest.

Many women are considered witches and exorcists are brought in to purge them of the demons that have taken over their bodies. Rather strangely, while the woman in Saudi was killed for it, often such people, including our tantrics, kill to practise such sorcery. Haven’t we heard about the blood of infants to cure impotency? Or children, women and those of lower status killed to solve everything, from financial problems to getting rid of the evil eye or the enemy?

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Those still on the 'Kapil Sibal is an idiot' trip, especially from the media, do tell us how many of the editors/ channel owners allow all kinds of views? Do media houses not push one particular position? Do they not promote political parties and their agendas? Are not certain industrial groups favoured in matters of coverage? Don’t glossies make it a point to ‘like’ some socialites and shun others when their chips are down? Don’t we know of stories that are planted?

So, how does this qualify as freedom of expression when you are a pawn in different games of different people? Does this not amount to pre-screening?

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Does Bombay Times not know the definition of plagiarism? Hindustan Times lifted one of its major pieces (yes, something about two people from the entertainment industry saying they are "just good friends") with the byline. They have not passed it as their own. This is a matter of attribution here, not plagiarism, unless BT has patent over anyone saying they are just good friends. Why HT would pick up something like this at all is a bit strange. Apparently, the media world was abuzz about the writer having quit to join HT. Now is this not earth-shattering? Isn't it like saying Neil Armstrong landed on Mars and not the moon? 

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Reading some of the obit pieces on cartoonist Mario de Miranda one is left with a bit of bitters. Comparisons are fine, but I found in them a sort of tangential and quite unnecessary put-down of R.K.Laxman. Here are excerpts from two pieces:

  • "It is the ideal example of two great cartoonists working together in the same publishing house. Much of the credit for the fact that they could do so must go to Mario, for the wonderful human being he was. He made sure his work never clashed with Laxman’s. Laxman handled the newspaper, Mario the magazines. Laxman was primarily a political cartoonist, Mario excelled in the social cartoon."
  • "That he was to the magazines of the Times of India what Laxman was to the daily paper. And, dare I say it, that Laxman was the Lata Mangeshkar who subtly ensured that the pedestal was not for sharing?"

This is such rubbish. The TOI had shifted Laxman’s column to the inside pages quite sometime ago. He is ailing and now lives in Pune. Would these same people have written such words had he been active and around in the TOI premises inside his cabin? The newspaper needed him; he did not need it. The TOI of course uses him when it wants. One rarely ever read paeans about Mario Miranda’s work earlier. We heard more about his attendance at parties. And Page 3 was always about events. Always. A small clique of people who propped up each other.

It is a pity that in death Mario is being used as an example of the approachable person he was as opposed to Laxman. Pity because he had his own style, which many later tried to emulate. It was something you could emulate – he used stereotypes, and there was no cheep about sexism where the secretary always wore cleavage-popping frocks, which was often understood that she had to be a Catholic or a Parsi.

He often illustrated a story or told a story, and his travel series were the best. Even his wayfarers and vagabonds seemed to be having a good time. They really were not common men. I am sure Miss Nimbu Paani will feel left out with his exit, but her kind always move on and find someone else to hang around with. That Mario lived in some heritage mansion and not in a rundown little apartment block in Goa just added to the society pages armour of a cultural ambassador.

He probably knew that this is a tail-wagger’s world, which is why the dog was omnipresent in his work. 

The quiet yelp will be the only true test of fidelity to his being.


Oxygen to fire: Kolkata

The most telling picture of Friday’s fire in a Kolkata hospital is not burnt bodies, patients being rescued with rope ladders, relatives crying. It is this: Hospital staff dragging an oxygen cylinder. This looks like a scene from some isolated township not a big city, and most certainly not a private hospital.

89 people died when a fire broke out in the basement of the Advanced Medicare & Research Institute (AMRI) hospital in Dhakuria. Most of the patients were in the intensive care units. I cannot even imagine those who are too ill and fragile in a position to even save themselves. Did they try pulling out the drips, the pipes, the wires linking them to machines when the smoke reached them and there was panic? Or were they asleep, rather sedated, at 1.30 am and died strapped to their beds?

There were some who pressed their faces on the windows and seemed to shout for help. Combustible material was placed in the basement. The fire brigade took time to arrive, ambulances took time to arrive…it was the nearby slumdwellers who rushed to assist in the rescue operations, but the guard refused to open the gate.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee arrived later in the morning, holding a mike and a megaphone leading the way, to assure people, to convince them. I do not wish to be cynical here. She was there at the other hospital where the injured were shifted and stayed there until late evening, apparently without food. Not many people in her position would do so. While I do not like the idea of politicians and their entourage disrupting real work, there are times when such gestures help assuage those who are suffering loss. I only hope that this is not a political angle.

In some ways it has become one. The government holds 1.99 per cent stake in the hospital. What about the 98.01 per cent that is privately-owned?

I also do not understand why they are now talking about the slums as a hindrance to the movement of rescue vehicles. They arrived late. It was those living in the slums who were physically present, and for years ambulances have been reaching the hospital.

It is good that six people have been arrested, but it needs more. Many of our hospitals, and not just government ones, are run in the most careless manner. Doctors go on strike, nurses go on strike, machines do not function, and cleanliness is not top priority, however many bottles of sanitiser liquids you see. Only some months ago a woman was singed and her newborn died because instead of antiseptic acid was used to clean them up. In another instance, stray dogs were roaming near the canteen and ICU areas of a municipal hospital. I have seen such dogs even in the premises of a private hospital.

What is the use then of thick glass panes that even firemen cannot break easily, as happened at AMRI?


Harvard Pottering with Swamy

You are probably applauding Harvard University because it has decided to junk Prof. Subramaniam Swamy’s courses in next year’s summer session for the views he expressed in a piece where he, according to the report:
 …recommended demolishing hundreds of mosques and suggested that only Muslims in India who “acknowledge that their ancestors were Hindus” should be allowed to vote.

I think the Janata Party president’s role is different from the man teaching Quantitative Methods in Economics and Business and Economic Development in India and East Asia. His political views cannot and should not interfere in his academic role, and by the same token he ought not to be jusged by his stand in his other role.

If the university is trying to make a point, then it should not permit guest lectures by Bill Clinton, George Bush, Tony Blair and several others for different reasons.

There is the huge question about how much a person’s political views matter in his non-political work. I have often said it is impossible for me to like Naipaul’s writing anymore because I find his politics loathsome. In this case, he is ‘coming home’, so to speak. He is addressing the issues he feels about and I do not agree with, and there will be an opposite reaction from others. In an assignment where the topic is entirely different, I do not see the validity of such protocol.

Harvard is probably looking for an excuse to draw attention to the fissures in Indian, and subcontinental, politics. The West has courses on terrorism. India does not. Pakistan does not. Sri Lanka does not. Bangladesh does not. Nepal does not. That should tell us something.

As regards the good professor, one must always keep the salt shaker handy for Swamy’s stupidity.


Rehman Malik and Ghulam Nabi Fai: A Tale of Two

A mourner in Afghanistan

Is Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, insensitive or stupid? Neither. He is trapped in a controversy for saying:

"I had appealed to the Taliban that they should respect the Muharram. I am grateful to them that they respected the Muharram this time. This is a good thing."

What is so shocking? He is in charge of the home department in the country. It is no secret that the Taliban do target people in religious places, however absurd this may sound. So, when there is mass mourning during Ashura by the Shias with 177 processions and 900 gatherings, and 7000 security personnel are deployed, it is obviously a matter of some concern.

You talk to people, and that includes non-Shias, and they will tell you how the community has been targeted for years, even when the Taliban was not active.

Why, then, you might ask, does the minister have to thank the Taliban? Does it not amount to being grateful to an extremist group and therefore accepting its role in politics? If the Taliban is everywhere today in Pakistan, it is akin to appealing for peace in a difficult situation. He is not known to use language very well, but there is no way Pakistan can go along by alientating the Taliban completely.

Why is no one talking about the fact that he also lauded the role of the cops?

The fact that there were blasts in Afghanistan killing 59 people is a sad reminder that the two countries have been divided. In fact, there are murmurs that the attacks were orchestrated from Pakistan’s border areas. At one time, the whole Pashtun community was one.

This is not only about shrines or even minorities anymore than it has been for a long time. Countries that have the misfortune of outsourcing their security will have to deal with insurgencies that damage their own society and people.

- - -

Ghulam Nabi Fai has admitted that the ISI was funding him “to influence US policy on Kashmir”:

“For the last 20 years, Mr. Fai secretly took millions of dollars from Pakistani intelligence and lied about it to the US government,” said US Attorney Neil MacBride. “As a paid operative of ISI, he did the bidding of his handlers in Pakistan while he met with US elected officials, funded high-profile conferences, and promoted the Kashmiri cause to decision-makers in Washington.”

Right. Now, what will the US do about those policy makers after they pronounce the verdict on Mr. Fai on March 9?

Will they do the boogey-woogey with Pakistan? Will we know how the innocent policy makers were taken for a ride? And will they show us the money and tell us just how they were influenced and how did they act upon it?

We seem to excel at looking at the curst and not reaching the core. Here are two bits from my earlier piece:

Did the ISI do it? Possible. Did Mr. Fai use this money? Possible. Was the FBI unaware about it all these years? Not possible.


It would be a pity if due to the ISI angle, the real issues will be pushed aside. America has the arsenal to deal with the ISI, but does it have the will? If Mr. Fai is a front, then why only name the ISI people and not the Congressmen who knew what they were expected to lobby for? Culpability in this case lies across the board. It is utterly ridiculous to make this sound like a terrorist plot when the monies have been traced and people of some stature have been consistently raising the Kashmir issue, not just abroad but at home.

Mona Lisa in the Lion's Den

I always suspected that Mona Lisa was a bit of a wild cat. Something to do with the Cheshire cat smile. Oh, I know, it has been analysed to death – from toothache to the pleasure of labour pains to muscle dystrophy to sucking on a lozenge. Okay, that’s not been explored yet. Anyhow, New York artist Ron Piccirillo is a guy I’d like to go on a safari with. It is so difficult to spot tigers in the wild, and I am quite certain that he will. He can see them. Just like that.

Piccirillo has transformed a yawn moment into something exciting. Leonardo da Vinci’s subject is surrounded by animals, he believes. Most people look at paintings as they are meant to be, but our artist here turned it horizontally and found a leopard, an ape, a buffalo and even a crocodile or snake right near the subject’s right shoulder. I suppose da Vinci maintained an element of delicacy and refrained from painting Mona Lisa horizontally.

I have tried to notice all those animals and it is the lady who seems the most beastly, because she is primal. Those other figures look like mushroom clouds to me.

But let it not be said that Piccirillo has not attempted an indepth analysis. What started as a “Geez, that kinda looks familiar” moment has turned out to possess some history.


Never bog-ged down

I just love this…flowers and ribbons to inaugurate a toilet. Only in India. Thane got its first electronic automatic public toilet (e-toilet) with computerised flushing, electricity, and water storage capacity in a 45 sg ft area.

I do not know if there is any special e-facility to figure out what to do when some of us squat atop the pot rather than sit on it. For a two-rupee coin, it could become a bit of a curiosity, and wonder whether there is a time limit, for each time that there is a heave-ho, there could then be a lot of water and power wastage.

But you bet, if you go by this picture, wherever we Indians are we come out smelling of roses. 


Undoctored Shanti Bhushan

Doctored CDs are not new. So, the latest news that the conversations between Mulayam Singh Yadav, Amar Singh and Shanti Bhushan have been tampered with is not so surprising.

The conversations implicated Shanti Bhushan and his son of getting a prime plot in Noida for a pittance. There was an RTI query. The response was this:

"Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), Chandigarh’s report has been made public for the first time in response to an RTI query. The conclusion of the report was that the CD was “not original and it is a post production edited version”. CFSL, Delhi and CERT-In had said the CD was original."

The two reports are now seen as wrong and Prshant Bhushan says it is not only the Delhi police’s dishonesty, but a move by the government to hijack the anti-corruption movement.

“The interest taken by the Home Minister P. Chidambaram in this matter and the PMO in revealing the Delhi CSFL report while withholding the Chandigarh CFSL report shows that the government is behind the dissemination of this fabrication, if not the actual fabrication itself."

A few devil’s advocate type questions:

1. Why is the last report to be considered sacrosanct? Or will there be a call for another one?

2. Will this exonerate Amar Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav as well, or will they be the culprits?

3. Does this mean that a first report is never authentic and the process of inquiry will as a matter of course depend on second and third and maybe more opinions?

4. If the Delhi police gave a wrong report, can they be tried for it or will it be seen as human error?

5. Will this set the precedent for everyone who has been tapped and taped in other cases to plead innocence?

6. Can other areas become an open ground, say, in cases of brain mapping?

It is unfortunate that there is politics in every case. This matter should go to court and not just become one more thing that will be debated in every panel discussion.

I am a bit curious about the timing, though. Anna Hazare and Company are back on the road with their tamasha. So, if the government did not release the report, must we assume that the RTI queries have more power than the government and inspire tremendous skills to detect “signs of proficient editing” as well as bring out honesty in the most corrupt heart?

- - -
For a flashback: Cool Bhushan, Hot Air

For an aside: Amar Singh and Draupadi


Sunday ka Funda

“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.”

- Ralph Nader 

Dil abhi bhara nahin: Dev Anand

Evergreen, evergreen…how many times has one heard and read the word to describe Dev Anand. When he died last night at the age of 88, still brimming with ideas, this would only make the evergreen tag squeeze in more adamantly.

No one noticed that his hair looked awkward, his skin sagged, his scarves and jackets sought to cover rather than make a statement as they had done earlier, and his lips quivered when he spoke. He had grown old, but was holding on to a shaky pillar to build foundations that would not last. His later films lacked panache, they flopped. He said it did not matter and would go on to his next project.

Did it really not matter? This was a man who was completely a people’s person – from his stylised acting to his flashy clothes, he wanted to be noticed and accepted. But he too fell for the evergreen image that was built around him.

A few months ago on a talk show he spoke about how even today there are girls who would be quite willing to get close to him. He was not gloating, and it is entirely possible that aspiring starlets would want to use him as a stepping stone. Yet, it was a sad moment. Sad to watch him regurgitate a fantasy, even if it was real.

His reality was often a fantasy. Some have called it optimism.

I first watched one of his old films on our building terrace. There was a projector and a bedsheet served as the screen. The movie was Hum Dono. We got two Dev Anands. Imagine seeing these delicious black and white images from what seemed a distant past under a starlit sky. Already a film junkie, these moments became part of my non-formal education. It helped when the family would recount their first exposure to the particular film. Or how my mother on her first English film outing, a Gregory Peck movie, was so angry that the Hollywood star was “copying hamara Dev Anand”. The fact that it was quite the opposite did not make a difference to her.

That Dev Anand overdid it was an intrinsic aspect of his persona. He hammed, but delightfully. He made you believe that he was like this. And you know what? He probably was. His body was perpetually leaning towards some unknown person or a far-away place. His neck performed acrobatics. He was like a tableau – every part of him, every expression, a stand-alone performance put together on one stage: himself.

As an actor, he would perhaps qualify as the first real urbane urban character of post-Partition India. He even pronounced his name in a posh manner: Dev-er-nun. He took to Bombay and portrayed it in such an uninhibited manner. Think of Taxi Driver where even the streets looked chic in the dark. He was a man who loved beauty. I would not call him an aesthete; his idea of pulchritude was of polish and varnish. Not quite superficial, but most certainly overt. He did show criminal characters and even portrayed them, but they were charmers. He showed poverty, but no real dirt. This was not his scene.

As director he took greater control, and he stuck to his urban concerns. Again, he did not delve too deeply, although Hare Rama Hare Krishna is indeed a landmark film. When he played the Professor Higgins part in Man Pasand, it did seem like reality for once. He had created quite a few female actors – Zeenat Aman and Tina Munim being the most prominent.

Again, in recent interviews he talked about how upset he was when Zeenat Aman chose Raj Kapoor. For him it was not about a role, but some sort of betrayal. His affair with Suraiya is a fascinating example of how he would go against type when he wanted something. It is said that she would sneak out and they would meet quietly, away from the prying eyes of her conservative mother. The man who one would imagine shrugging such inconveniences off – “Har fikr ko dhuein mein udaata chalaa gaya” (I smoked away all worries) – seemed to understand the delicacy of such shackles, as in his beloved singing “Chhod do aanchal zamaana kya kahega” (Let go off me, what will people think?), but not without a riposte: “Inn adaaon ka zamaana bhi hai deewana, deewaana kya kahega” (this world too is crazy about just such tantalising excuses, so what’s a crazy man to do).

It was clear that he was a romantic, but pragmatically so. Not one of the Alps types, he wooed women through the haze of cigarette smoke or a curl of his lower lip. The music in his films was essential, not merely to take the story forward but to help us stop and look at what else he could do. It was in the song sequences that he shone best and was a natural at.

There are several, but I want to stay with these two.

The romance:


The optimistic angst:

Teri duniya mein jeene se, tau behetar hai ke mar jaayein
Wohi aansoon, wohi aahein, wohi gham hai, kidhar jaayein

(It is better to die than live in this world
With the same tears, the same sighs, the same sorrows trailing where does one go)

Just watch him. Does it look like he would want to give up? He is addressing god, but his demeanour is challenging. And the child’s musical interlude – innocence? Hope?

Post Script: I cannot end without mentioning that sometime towards the end of 2000 I got a hand-written note from him saying that he enjoyed my columns. I wanted to cry because those were days of my tears. I could not meet him, but the words of one of his songs from Hum Dono, the first film of his that I had seen under a starlit sky on a bedsheet screen, echoed how I felt.

Kabhi khud pe, kabhi haalat pe rona aaya
Baat nikli tau har eik baat pe rona aaya

(I sometimes weep over myself and sometimes over what’s happening to me
And when I speak about such sorrows, I weep for those sorrows too)


Of Kashmiri Kids and Obama's NATO

Just the other day, they were telling us how bad the situation is in Mumbai. How do you solve this problem? Bring a group of Kashmiri kids. Here is what happens:

Even though many would prefer the serenity of the valleys of Kashmir, for this bunch of Kashmiri students currently touring Mumbai, the hustle-bustle and traffic jams of the city are more appealing. “It feels so good and comforting to walk into a city where people are not living in constant fear,” said Shabbir Ahmed, a 16-year-old student from Khadi, Kashmir.

This boy’s father or uncle or grandfather is probably in Mumbai selling handicrafts. And not because he wants to feel safe, but because the jobs have dried up in Kashmir.

Are such initiatives worth it? This has been arranged by the 23 RR Battalion of the Indian Army. Major Gurudev Jajot said:

“Our aim is to wipe out this stigma of isolation that they face and to motivate them to dream high.”

In what way is it a stigma? There are people living in many remote villages in our country. They are isolated too. By emphasising on the stigma associated with Kashmiris, it only makes it more evident and real. It is nice that children from different places interact, but not with such an agenda in mind.

Does a Kashmiri not dream high? And even if s/he does not, there can be several factors. Again, how many high dreamers are there in Chhatisgarh or even Chunabatti in Mumbai?

- - -

I do hope Pakistan has sent a Thank You note to Barack Obama for not saying sorry for the NATO strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. It exposes his arrogance.

Some administration aides also worried that if Mr. Obama were to overrule the military and apologize to Pakistan, such a step could become fodder for his Republican opponents in the presidential campaign, according to several officials who declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The military units are sent by the US civilian administration. A democratically-elected leader can overrule the military, just as he can recall them. That is what has been done all along, so why the protocol now? If he is only looking at electoral gains, then he would benefit from the apology because Pakistan will be eager to accept it due to their tacit understanding.

Cameron Munter, the United States ambassador to Pakistan, would have liked it to fix the US-Pak situation, but others disagreed:

Defense Department officials balked. While they did not deny some American culpability in the episode, they said expressions of remorse offered by senior department officials and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton were enough, at least until the completion of a United States military investigation establishing what went wrong.

Wonderful. Even if the Americans and the Pakistanis give different explanations, the fact is that these soldiers were killed, and not by the militants. Where are the investigations when the Americans get trigger-happy? Will there be an inquiry into whether they were defending themselves? Against whom? The militants or the soldiers?

If the top defense guys do not know what their troops were upto, then Pakistan could use them to stand guard outside Habib Bank or something in Karachi.

Who moved my 'journalistic space'? The Age of Twitter Set-ups

Why the hell is ‘journalistic space’* being taken over by micro-blogging? Why is it that when one person breaks wind there, a whole bunch of people queue up outside the loo?

Hmm…I had just finished my morning adulations, and ignoring the Toffee-nose of India (TOI), I went to the stapled sister. I like Mumbai Mirror. I like mirrors. Now, in the midst of all the light frothy gossipy stuff it mentioned a “corruscating review” about a recently-published “social Bible”. It did not specify whether it was the Nobu or the Antillia version.

What follows here is a reaction to the responses to the riposte to the review and the rejoinders to the remnants that remain of the righteous rumblings.

Since those who do not read my blog are not acquainted with those who do not read everything else, I will have to introduce the characters that are not there and what they did not do.

An author Soul Setter, henceforth referred to as Setter because I want to sound like a Goan, wrote a book, a social Bible, if you must, called 'Getting To the Top of ITC’s Everest in a Chartered Plane: Ten Rules for Being Moses'. The Setter has friends and clients. That is his business – to make clients feel like friends and friends become clients.

It is simple enough. Learn to get all the Gifts of the Magi without being Christ. Or, if the atheists prefer, how to lay eggs without being a hen.

A lot of people might have bought Setter’s book because they were friends and clients and wanted to read about how they were making people.

Then, what is the problem? Setter is popular among the television channels and is always on panel discussions. He is a marketing guy and many of the big companies would like to see him talk about the state of the nation while he is selling their soap suds and hotels.

According to my sources – okay page 2 of the paper – the Setter read that “corruscating review” and went into “an indignant, inelegant splutter”. Fine, the couple of examples I read weren’t exactly nice, but then wasn’t the review “corruscating”? Setter was blinded. Hurt. Setter could not control. Setter blurted out: “So @me-churma (name changed) reviewed my book for a magazine no one reads. Am not surprised! He is supposedly an unemployed economist for an unread mag!”

What followed is truly weird. A news magazine that we read for taped conversations, excerpts from the editor’s book (oh, no, will leave that for now), and four-page essays by Oliver Twist asking for more Mao jumped into the buzz. It went full-throttle into an excavation expedition and besides Shivaji’s personally autographed copy of Adil Shah's memoirs, they found tweets from the time of the Cripps Mission. Standing apart were those about the Setter controversy. It turns out that a month before the “corruscating review” appeared, Setter had praised the magazine – let us call it Craven – addressing its senior editor with the shining words: “and by the way I love the way your magazine CRAVEN is doing in the journalistic space*…super stuff…” (italics mine)

This should tell us that Setter is a bit displaced. He needs to shout, as he has done by typing the name of the mag in all-caps. However, I do not see any disparity in the two comments. He loves (or loved) the magazine in a confined space to which he supposedly has access (remember the chartered plane and all?). He is telling us that not everyone has that access. “No one reads” clearly means he is not No One; he is Someone. He is also hoping it goes unread. This is Setter Subconscious. The personal attack on the reviewer is because he assumed a slight directed towards him.

I have not read the book (extracts, yes), but did go through the review. It seemed like the reviewer went into the deep dark woods to figure out a bonsai plant.

The problem for people like us is that everyday we find little bon mots, and not all by bon vivants, which Setter claims to be, and we often do not know the context. Recently I came upon some exchange between the Diva and other divas about maids. Suddenly, out of nowhere, another best-sailing author’s name cropped up. Let us call him Chattan Bang. It transpires that he was being sarcastically awarded something for watching films with his maids.

Now, Chattan really likes films and his latest watch is The Dirty Picture: “The movie breaks so many new grounds, and opens the door for Indian biopics.”

If it is breaking so many new grounds, where will there be place for doors?

He is so taken up that he even gets patriotic: “Few Indians make me proud of being Indian. Vidya Balan is one. She isn't just an actor, she is an artist. Superb performance.”

I am told the boobs and midriff prosthetics are not made in India.

Then, this: “If a dog keeps on barking your name, he makes you famous. The dog, however, remains a dog.”

And the bark remains a bark, no?

Unless you have a dog named Google, like Setter does, who can find the doggie doo even in coruscating darkness.


Sycophants and Slaps

Now the lawyers and judges are fighting. If judges are sycophants, then lawyers are born to be sycophants. It is their brief, for when they represent a client, they are doing chamchagiri for that client. Even in cases of crime and terrorist acts against the state, the prosecution lawyer is supposed to argue on behalf of his client, whether or not s/he is right.

Upholding of truth is based on facts. Facts are based on evidence. Evidence comes from what the cops, the witnesses, and the intelligence agencies see and say. What they see and say need not be equally true and it can and does change. So, they are all sycophants to such altered perceptions and circumstances.

Lawyers ask for adjournments to stall the evidence, to buy time or because they really need to get some more information, or their client cannot depose. They are legally entitled to do so. This means that the judiciary is a sycophant of the rulebooks. Cases go on. Lawyers change; judges change; even criminals change when dead men they had killed turn up alive one fine day, sometimes after years.

 All this sycophancy talk is because senior advocate Ram Jethmalani said:

“Why do you (judges) adjourn when they (lawyers) ask for it? You also have become sycophants to maintain relations.”

Justice P B Majmudar of the Bombay High Court reacted sharply:

“What sort of nonsense statements are being made from a public platform?...Lawyers are making public statements which affect the image of the judiciary. Senior advocates are tarnishing the image of judges by saying such things in public. It affects the public profile of the whole institution. There should be some restraint (on lawyers making statements). From new entrants in the profession to advocates on the verge of retirement, everyone is indulging in it.”

I undersand protocol, but just a flip-side query: If the judge asks the lawyer to quicken the pace, despite the seriousness of the case, and the lawyer acquiesces, then would s/he be sycophants of the judge?

 - - - 

Okay, I missed the tamasha over the tamacha (slap). Every angle has been analysed, I assume. I have read a few, very few. So, here is a small snippet from a report:

Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar was today slapped by a man at the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) centre in New Delhi. The incident occurred while the minister was leaving the premises after attending a literary function.  
The attacker, identified as Harvinder Singh, reportedly blamed Mr Pawar for rising prices of essential commodities. “This is my answer to corrupt politicians,” shouted the attacker as he took out his kirpan (small knife) and threatened to kill politicians. 

When informed about this, Anna Hazare said, “What, only one slap?”

Then the NCP guys went on a rampage to protest – the slap, Anna’s comment and generally because they wanted some action.

So, here are my completely superficial thoughts: 

1. Why do municipal corporations host literary functions and invite agriculture ministers?

2. Aren’t we up to our necks with this corruption thing? Some commentators spoke about ‘disaffection’ of the public. In that case it has nothing to do with corruption. Other politicians have got the shoe treatment; if such disaffection is going to be so pat, then assassinations can also be explained away.

3. Then there are those who think the slap was undignified. Whoa. Slippers are thrown inside Parliament too. What Harvinder Singh did is the equivalent of heckling at rock concerts – everyone wants paisa vasool stuff. If Sharad Pawar sent them sacks of sugar from his fiefdom, they’d be quite happy.

4. Then there are those who think he was so cool in forgiving (he did not, his daughter did) while his goons went about breaking things. This is not cool. This is political smarts. He would have been cool had he stopped the rampage. Mr. Pawar is in no position to be magnanimous given who he is known to be cosy with.

5. Then there are those who say Anna Hazare should not have said what he did, it is not Gandhian. This is funny. Gandhi was around sitting with his charkha, weaving khadi, when all those violent episodes took place and his supporters got the bad end of the stick, quite literally.

Anyhow, Anna and Pawar are two sides of the same bad coin. They are raking it in from the rural/agriculture sector in terms of cash or kind, but appealing to the urban groups, well aware that this is how they can get that spit and polish.

- - -

End note: The turncoat moment in 26/11 anniversary two-bits when celebrity page 3 regulars who had been right up there in colour-coordinated scarves and tunics pushing the ‘enough is enough’ agenda diss “celebrities” and think about the ‘others’, and pat themselves for having refused to appear on TV shows this year. Wow, missed ya babes. What were they doing barfing at the sensitive time when it mattered most? Or is three years later not good enough to get them international mileage?


Killing the news or the messenger?

Is it about a story? A journalist gets arrested for being involved in the murder of another journalist. Such real facilitation of killings is not commonplace, or at least not known.

But, then, news needs to be fresh and to update it anything goes. Even another story.

When senior crime reporter J. Dey was murdered by the underworld gang, there were several theories. Few probably thought that someone from the same profession, in this case Jigna Vora, would play such a crucial role. The latest report says:

Crime branch officers told special judge SM Modak they suspect that Vora had sent information on Dey to gangster Chhota Rajan, the main accused in the case. MCOCA carries a minimum punishment of five years in jail or a maximum of death sentence. If the MCOCA charge against Vora were to be dropped, she would still face charges of murder and criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code that can attract the death sentence, another officer said. 
Vora is accused of sending pictures of Dey’s motorcycle, details of his whereabouts, his office and home addresses to Rajan.

Soon after the murder, I had given the example of a reporter acquintance getting into trouble and written in Who kills investigative reporters?:

Sources. That's the tricky word. The sources don't drop from the sky or just saunter in. They need to be cultivated. The beat is not kind, nor the hunt for scoops equal. 
The underworld is a vile world but not too different from extremist groups - separatist or political establishment. My piece on Pakistani journalist Shahzad's murder tried to explore some factors.
I would also ask one contrarian question: If giving information amounts to actual murder, then must not police informants also be seen as encounter killers?

Regarding the Dey case, one truly wonders what happens to the ethics that the media constantly talks about. Before they sit to once again judge, let them re-examine the incidents where other sorts of sniping are par for the course – passing on rival or wrong information; planting sources to check out the sources; making threatening calls; posing as imposters. Of course, this does happen, and all for the spoils of the big story that will be stale after a day.


Tata’s Serious About Cyrus

It’s a girl…oops, I mean, it’s a Parsi! After the hoopla over a Bollywood star giving birth to a baby, the front pages reverberated with the earth-shaking – or is it game-changing? – news that Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata Group, has finally found a successor. Cyrus Mistry, besides being humble, intelligent, young, mature, family man, foodie, car-lover, who plays golf, is also bloody rich. He is the son of construction magnate Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry, and already owns an 18.4 per cent share in the company he will now head.

He says he will dissociate himself from the family business to prevent a clash of interests. Socialites who love to throw their danedelion words around are applauding the brave move that does away with dynasty. Idiocy! Cyrus inherited his papa’s business; he is inheriting the chaimanship because besides being humble, intelligent…you get the drift…he also holds the largest outsider stake in the Tata pie.

And while it is sad that he may not have enough time for golf (I am not saying this; it has been quoted), he will still be the good boy who made it better. His being a Parsi is also a sort of dynastic thing considering the dwindling population. I say this because Ratan Tata had mentioned last year that his successor need not be from the community. Not just that, he also said, “In my opinion the successor should be a suitable person for the job. He need not be a pro-Parsi or anti-Parsi.”

Well, from the looks of it, Cyrus will have to walk the razor’s edge. But then, according to an insider, “Mistry is one person who can laugh at himself.” Great. I was kind of worried for this Irish citizen who will have to deal with such Indian things.

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For my take on his earlier Parsi comment, here is Tata, goodbye