Careless news

I don’t understand what the picture below has got to do with the content of the news item. Since it has no credit line, I am not sure whether Omar Abdullah is inspecting “the Indo-Pak border in the R S Pura sector”, as is mentioned in the Times of India, or bird-watching. 

Also, while in another report in TOI’s web edition, he does state that Pakistan should do its bit for peace, the Pakistani Rangers who were killed by the BSF were not anywhere near J&K. This happened in Fazilka town in Ferozepur district, which is a couple of hours’ drive from Chandigarh. The BSF guards the 553-km international border in Punjab.

As regards Pakistan refusing to accept the bodies, obviously it would. Consent would amount to culpability. So throwing evidence will not work.

What has Omar Abdullah got to do with this?

For a clear reference I am reproducing the news item and photograph as it is in the newspaper from the epaper. Ignorance, and such carelessness, is not always bliss:

Pak refuses to accept intruders’ bodies
J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah inspects the Indo-Pak border in the R S Pura sector on Sunday. Pakistan has refused to accept bodies of two alleged Pakistanis, who were shot dead by the BSF early on Friday when they tried to sneak into India, an official said. ‘We had informed the Pakistan Rangers and we were hopeful they would take back the bodies. But they refused and said the deceased were not Pakistanis,’ BSF deputy inspector general Panaj said. ‘We have enough proof to substantiate their identity but Pakistan does not want to admit the fact,’ he added


Passé the blog, please?

We are dead. Or dying. Or we are soon-to-be fossilised. Or we are really old. If blogging is still important to us, then we are on our way out.

The New York Times and all the doomsday prophets at Pew Research Center can get all a-twitter about people leaving their online journal nests, but I’d like to grow old gracefully. For I know that something will come along to replace the current favourites and they will become obsolete too and have to meet me in my mouldy hole and, guess what? I’ll have more with me in that cave because I gave more and took more.

According to the NYT report:
Blogging started its rapid ascension about 10 years ago as services like Blogger and LiveJournal became popular. So many people began blogging — to share dieting stories, rant about politics and celebrate their love of cats — that Merriam-Webster declared “blog” the word of the year in 2004.

There has always been that smirky attitude. I started blogging because I was already ranting about politics – it was part of my work. I don’t have a cat and I do not diet. The first note I received was from a reader of my columns asking, “Why do you want to become one among the millions?” I found it weird. It was as though I was abdicating my throne! (Well, he did think I was going downmarket.) Then I read an article that said anybody who has a blog thinks they can say anything. Almost all international publications have blogs, some by their own columnists. So why chuff at the ‘outsiders’? Senior writers often quote from blogs and there are slots in newspapers that give snippets from them (now it is more tweets), especially on topical issues.

My blog journey was not for that. It was to find a space for all the things I wanted to say, without worrying about deadlines or word limit or audience expectation.

Yet, I did not treat it with any less respect than I did my more ‘constructive’ work. My writing has always been personalised, including my political writing, so this wasn’t a way to go on an I for an I binge, which is how many bloggers are perceived. Having been on both, and several, sides, I can say that I have read many blog posts that are far more substantial than some of the Op-eds, especially in the newly-refurbished publications that sacrifice content for layout. For someone like me, blogs have been a huge boon because since I do not toe any line, I can say just what I want without getting a headache dealing with those who are the line-markers. As a political animal, it was only a matter of time before my obsession with raindrops and damp walls would transmogrify into the bestial world of social degeneration.

So, when did the great bloggers’ escape take place?
Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers. Others said they had no interest in creating a blog because social networking did a good enough job keeping them in touch with friends and family.

Has anyone been forced to write lengthy posts? Since this is being posited against social networking sites, I wonder how many ‘readers’ those have. They will need to click on a link and return to lengthy posts, extracts, podcasts, video blasts somewhere else.

I have had immensely gratifying interactions with readers. Some have veered away, but they are the ones who mention me, and am sure some of you. And those who read my articles see a new side on blogs, a more complete picture. And if someone starts a blog only to appear as a legitimate blogger to be able to comment, then one must be worth it. Or if someone signs into a site only to send a message telling you how wrong you were about something you wrote two years ago, then it’s worth it. And if you feel let down when you want support and have the courage to say it, then it is worth it. And when you are down and they can sense it and stay quiet, then it is worth it. And if with passing time you can read their minds as they read your words, then it is worth it. And if you can remove the comment-posting facility and continue to write because you need to, then you know that the streets may be full of people and the walk may not be lonesome, but it is your feet that carry your weight and take you where you want to. It is worth it.

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Okay, there is a flip side. A couple of months ago I got a lovely letter about how very wonderful I was. I sent a 'Mucho gracias' reply. The person was online so I got a prompt note: "Are you on Twitter or something?"

"Am surviving without bird feed," I wrote back.

Well, he made some cute-nasty comment. A few weeks later, I sent a short email because I had not noticed something in his first letter. I was surprised to get this in an email: "Hey, hey." I hey-heyed back and quoted some rubbish. Then he asked, "Now can you tell me your name?" (My name often appears as only initials if I type on my phone, yet...) Poof. Was I angry? Upset? No. He said I took two weeks to reply so how was he supposed to recall. What were those wonderful words for, then? "Oh, I surely wrote them, but I don't recall the name of the writer!"

Fake humility is not my genre, so I won't venture there. But I felt like an actor who performs well and gets under the skin of a character and that is what is remembered.

It's really worth it.


The Indian Army’s Women

The headline is deliberately sensational. This is how the women officers are treated – with scant respect and without getting their due. Worse, the government that talks about reservations for women in Parliament agrees with the court that women in the Indian Armed Forces are lesser than men. Major Seema Singh has challenged the Supreme Court:

“The policies for women in army not only discriminate her against male officers but also lower her status to that of a jawan/junior commissioned officer, whom she has been leading for 14 years.”

After this, she is “thrown out”, and given the number of years she receives no pension and no retirement benefits. In the scathing words of Major Singh:

“The army is using the policy of use and throw while dealing with its trained women officers.”

The risk theory is propounded, which is flimsy:

“Women officers and gentlemen officers commissioned into these services are performing similar jobs, undergoing similar professional courses and are being posted to all field and peace postings. There is no separate charter of duties for women officers or short service commissioned male officers and permanent commissioned male officers. The strength of women officers posted in services in combat zone is 30% whereas short service commissioned gentlemen officers comprise 29% and permanent commissioned gentlemen officers have 23% presence.”

Even if one is to take the facing the enemy line, these tasks are not about combat. Besides, how many troops are really in a constant state of battle? Why must only combat zones be considered real work? This is just a manner in which the army, a male preserve, keeps its image of machismo alive.

It is clearly not an issue of performance but gender, for why do the officers doing the same job get to stay and why are some pushed up to give orders to the women who were once their seniors? How many women officers have been implicated in scams? How many have had cases against them for sexual harassment? How many have shirked their duties? How many have dropped out mid-way? How many have used excuses to get out of the army – it is tough and the excuses are fine-tuned? How many instances have the armed forces encountered where women officers specifically asked for soft postings? Are there more applications for leave from women officers?

Do remember these women are not getting brave in bunkers for a short while; this is their job and they ought to be given all the facilities due to them.

If militant organisations can have their women’s wing, and be sure they are combative, then the army need not worry about our women officers. They joined the forces knowing what they were getting into and not to nurse the wounds and egos of our male officers.

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On an unrelated note: 

Cinema halls play the national anthem before the start of a movie. Of late, they have the film Rajneeti's team on screen before the flag singing the anthem. No one resents standing up out of respect, but I certainly do not want to see the faces of Katrina Kaif, Ranbir Kapoor, Prakash Jha and the rest covering the flag. Why do we have to face them? It appears we are paying respects to them as representing the anthem and the flag.


News meeows


The verdict on the Godhra case will be pronounced on Tuesday. 10,000 cops will guard Ahmedabad and 2000 will be posted at Godhra. This is a telling indicator that it is the big city that decides how the tide will swing.

Godhra collector Milind Torawane has banned all TV channels from showing images of the Godhra carnage or the riots that followed, for 12 hours beginning noon of February 22. Joint commissioner Satish Sharma told mediapersons on Saturday that they should refrain from showing or publishing images of Godhra and post-Godhra riots on the verdict day so as not to fuel public emotions. The police have given security cover for families of all the 92 accused booked in the case.

I understand it, but why did the Gujarat government use images of the burning train in its own election campaign? Was it not to fuel public emotions? How selective are these emotions? The locals go on a rampage, the police with the connivance of the government kills over 1200 people – their own people – because of a burnt train coach with 59 passengers they did not know the identities of?

94 accused were rounded up and are in the Sabarmati prison since 2002, whereas Narendra Modi remains the chief minister. Have these accused been given security cover because the verdict will go against some of them or because it won’t? Then the public emotions will again be divided. The post-Godhra riots took place without any photographic evidence. It spread through hate-inducing pamphlets and posters. So, images won’t cause any such reaction unless they are engineered to.

However, I’d agree that they should not be aired because TV channels will sensationalise it for no reason other than to grab attention for themselves. And anyway, the media people do not decide the fate of criminal or civil cases, although they’d like to believe they do.


The Orissa government on Saturday seemed to be working to a hush-hush plan to swap abducted Malkangiri collector R Vineel Krishna and junior engineer Pabitra Majhi with a clutch of jailed Maoist leaders. This could be the first such exchange deal since the 1999 IC-814 Kandahar incident in which militant Masood Azhar and others were freed for 190-odd Indian Airlines passengers.

There is a huge difference. The plane was hijacked by Harkat ul Mujahideen, a Pakistani militant outfit, and demanded the release of its members. The lives of 190 people were at stake. In Orissa, the kidnapping is against the Indian establishment. It is an indigenous hostage situation.

From reports one gathers that the cops helped in putting up the bail pleas for the Maoists, but the lawyer says it has to be done the proper judicial way. Apparently, the reasons for the arrests are flimsy. The government may well go the quiet way because it can be questioned regarding its policies. I do wonder, though, why the Maoists have not kidnapped policemen or politicians.


The Dalai Lama gave a lecture in Mumbai on “Ancient Wisdom and Modern Thoughts”, but he did sneak in politics:

“Now in China, genuine socialism is no longer there; a communist party without communist ideology. Capitalist communism: this is new. I heard that the life of some Indian communists and a few leaders of the Indian communist party is more bourgeois than socialist.”

True. Just as the life of some spiritual leaders who check into five-star hotels while their people sit for hours in protest. The Dalai Lama has consistently played a dog and the bone game with China. The problem is this tussle on his part takes place in India. And he does it so subtly, so 'spiritually', that we don’t even realise what is happening”

“I describe Indians as the guru, we (Tibetans) are chelas (students) of Indian guru. Essentially we learn from you.”

And then he said:

“Caste, dowry, discrimination, these may be a part of your tradition but they are outdated, and must change. The youth must change some of these…. From your chela, this is constructive criticism. Sometimes, you are a little bit lazy. You must be more hardworking; work with full self-confidence.”

Did anyone object? Of course, these are evils but where was the BJP that starts getting all hot and bothered everytime someone talks about our ‘tradition’?

Forget Indians, may we know in what manner the Tibetan youth can be self-confident and hardworking when they don’t even have their own land? How many of them have access to the huge amount of donated money from overseas by foreign supporters? Does the Indian government not have limits on this?

He made a rather curious comment:

"Modern education system does not pay attention to wholeheartedness. Teaching ethics without touching the religious space is important."

Is he conceding that ethics is antithetical to religion? And if it is important and 'wholehearted', then why must it not infringe into the religious space?


Yoga guru Baba Ramdev got a taste of politics on Saturday at his yoga camp in Arunachal’s Pasighat where he was allegedly called a “bloody Indian dog” by Congress MP Ninong Ering. Taking exception to the insult, the yoga guru’s spokesperson S K Tijarawala threatened that Ering wouldn’t be allowed to come to Delhi to attend Parliament. Ering, who has denied the charge, has been asked by the Congress to explain his conduct.
  1. This should tell the Congress that, if true, its own party is completely removed from Arunachal. 
  2. Who is Swami Ramdev to disallow an elected MP from attending Parliament? File a case against such libellous language. Simple.


'Yeh Saali Zindagi' - Life is a bitch, so is the film

Okay, I did not like Yeh Saali Zindagi. In fact, I thought it was a waste of my time. This sounds awfully non-intellectual. You are supposed to like pathbreaking cinema, appreciate nuances. Guess what? I don’t think those guys who were whistling at the cuss words or going “Oye, oye’ at the kissing scenes knew any “maa ki aankh” avant gardism. They probably did not even identify enough with the goonda-gardism.

I took a quick look at some of the reviews and phrases like “dark comedy”, “twisted plot”, “unconventional narrative”, “love with the backdrop of a thriller” hit me. Then there are technical hosannas, especially about pace.

Smart accountant Arun works for slimy boss, falls in love with nightclub singer Priti who can’t sing, who is in love with a businessman’s son, who is engaged to a minister’s daughter, who is angry because he loves the singer, who needs help of the other guy who loves her. Pace? Yeah, yeah. “Bhenchod.

Then there is Kuldeep who is in jail, wants to reform, has an aggressive wife who he tames with kisses and a son, decides on one last big ticket kidnapping with the help of corrupt cop, gets the wrong girl, who goes to real girl and real father of girl, finally goes to real lover of her singing…nah…of her body...nah…of her soul…well…Pace? Yeah, yeah. “Chutiya.

Cut to auditorium. People are laughing. Not because the comedy is dark but because a man is killed and his corpse farts. They are whistling not because there is anything exciting but the coarse language seems like their “saala”. It is programmed to sound rough and tough and hard. Oh yeah, they get the weapons and the phallic stuff to convey that.

The film is supposed to give you the underbelly of Delhi. Honestly, this could be in Jharkhand, Patna or Virar or even Sicily. No wonder they have to dateline every event. “Somewhere in Sohna, “Outskirts of Delhi”. Okay, we are such dolts, we Angrezi types that we won’t know the underbelly.

Arun's love for the nightclub singer is shown as some sort of obsession. It isn’t. He moons like an adolescent who has just discovered new use for a water tap and just as suddenly has her accounts in order (where in the beginning he had managed to get the thumb impression of another corpse…dark, na?) She goes “Oh, Arun,” like Saira Banu used to in those old films, except she is “real”. Uff, how everyone is telling us again and again that this is real, and all about subtext and layers and ensemble cast, which is a nice way to create 'confujan' and make it sound like it has so many “bhadva” layers.

It is so ‘witty’ that a bullet that backfires and boomerangs on the unrequited lover becomes the cause of denouement. Geez, the object of his love finally says, “I love you.” Now, is one supposed to go treacly and get goosebumps? No, no. This is serious cinema with layers. So, should one laugh but only slightly because it is a dark comedy? No, no. They are finally snuggled in bed.

Sudhir Mishra has made two marvellous films: Ek Raat Ki Subah Nahin and Hazaaron Khwaaishein Aisi that meshed love and the thriller genres. Yeh Saali Zindagi is neither here nor there. I mean, there are people who think describing the person one is crazy about as rajma chaawal is different and potent. Really? All Punjabis probably do, that is if they are not calling them tandoori chikkan or sarson da saag. But rajma is kidney beans and he goes on about kidney…kaleja…(which is liver)…dil…

Mishra can take a bow. He has finally made a film for the frontbenchers.

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Note: I have used cuss words in the post that were there in the film and passed by the censors. I suppose I got some of the layers right. To the readers, please excuse, but I also had to be 'realistic'.


Wake Up Singh: An Open Letter To A Sleepy Statesman

It takes more than two to tango?

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

If you are not as big a culprit as you are made out to be, then would you enlighten us as to how small you are? What exactly was the reason that prompted you to meet with this huddled group of television channel editors to clear the air when some of the scams have to do with the media’s tacit involvement?

You need to address the nation and for that you could have chosen a proper location, held a public meeting and then let the newspapers and TV channels cover it and we would have the right to choose where we get our news. This was a PR exercise, not a genuine attempt to help Indian citizens know the truth. I understand that it was all fixed; the questions were stage-managed. As the head of government you are not answerable to the media and by doing so both you and our news sources have lost further credibility.

Now let us discuss one of the most important points you made and that was regarding coalition politics – you blamed it for the compromises your government has made: “You have to put up with a lot if you are running a coalition. Otherwise, you will have to hold elections every six months, which will not be a very happy situation either.”

This is a pathetic comment coming from the prime minister. A coalition gets together not because all the parties agree on every issue, but because there is a need to add up the figures and reach the holy grail of running the government. There is a barter system and portfolios are handed out according to demand and expediency. You know a party’s strong points, its important contenders and accordingly they are given the ministries. There is compromise inbuilt in this sort of horse-trading. But, there is no choice because the days of one-party rule are over. Seeing this as some kind of political dynamism, the leadership ought to use the strengths of the parties rather than hold them responsible for the crimes that are committed.

You are the head of this coalition and are supposed to know who is doing what, at least at the top level. This chickening out is a terrible letdown and reeks of opportunism on your part, something no one will ever accuse you of because you are a master of the cloak-and-dagger game.

How conveniently you blame the finance ministry and the departments of telecom and space for the spectrum/S-Band deals. You don’t even need to work it out because it appears self-evident. Then, what exactly is your role? It is only when the issues have gone beyond what is considered normal public memory have you come out in the open. How open is it really? The mammoth nature of corruption is just a “mistake” on your part? All these scams involve people in major positions, they involve bureaucrats, they involve industrial houses, and they involve what might also be security forces at some level. And what solution do you have? You said that after the Budget session you will reshuffle the cabinet.

The Budget session will involve the finance ministry that you have just blamed for impropriety. So, who will manage that? The same culprits? What will the reshuffle entail? This is the sneakiest thing governments do when they want to hush up the matter – just make those culpable invisible, let them cool their heels somewhere or go underground, bring in ‘fresh blood’, or a few from the old order that are ostensibly untainted, and make sure the carpet is thick enough not to let any dust escape.

However, what will you do about the constraints of coalition politics? Surely, you cannot dump some prime players because they prop up the Congress. How will you perform the balancing act? If they are forced to quit, then the coalition becomes weak, instead of weak-kneed as it now is. It is convenient to blame your partners on the choice of ministers, but how can you even suggest that you did not imagine a “serious wrong had been done”?

May we know what according to you a serious wrong is? Weren’t the Commonwealth Games a Congress show? Why was no action taken against the apathy and avarice? Regarding Devas, how can you say that letters were exchanged but there were no assurances given? Why were letters exchanged without a thorough examination? Can any such correspondence infiltrate the major ministries without any motive?

It does not make anyone in the country proud that the prime minister has to defend such deeds. If the coalition is to blame, then why did you not invite those under the radar to join you in this meeting? As we say in Hindi, “Doodh ka doodh aur paani ka paani ho jaata” (We’d be able to tell milk from water and the level of adulteration). Now you are using the way out with the acceptance of ‘responsibility’. This will make you seem like a statesman, even a martyr. Let us cut it out. You are not accepting responsibility for the acts committed but for not knowing about these “aberrations”. It is this bad.

I hope you know that most of India is in India and not for foreign consumption and our global image you are so concerned about. You want to sell some hollow dreams of how we can be seen as an economic power; interestingly, all the major scams have to do with such visible sectors. You say, “We have not lost the will for reform. Reforms will be visible in the Budget. We will also bring more legislation.”

What is more legislation? What about social reform and answerability? You are only giving more teeth to the ones who bite, not the ones who are bitten.

You want to stay the course despite ethical and governance deficit. You will camouflage this as a means of retaining stability. The UPA is unstable not because it is a coalition but despite it. You, Gulliver, are roaming free by reassuring the Lilliputians. It’s been a while since you were washed ashore unconscious. Isn’t it time to wake up?

(c) Farzana Versey

Published in Countercurrents


Men on a mission

You get a silky or lacy thing from him but it might be to keep track of somebody snuggling up to you when he is out of sight. The Chastity Garter will send men a text message if their wives or girlfriends are cheating on them.

Edward and Lucinda Hale came up with the idea because:

“Our relationship nearly fell apart when Lucinda cheated me. She told me she regretted it and wished there was a way of removing the temptation by making straying impossible.”

I don’t think this garter will take away temptation, which lies in the mind. It will only make it difficult to act upon it. I also find the technicalities a bit amiss:

The garter monitors rising pulse rate as well as surface moisture levels on the skin and when these apparent signals of sexual stimulation occur, a text message is sent to alert the woman’s husband or boyfriend.

See, where is the remedy for temptation? She is all charged up and excited and all her partner will get is a beep-beep to tell him there’s something about Mary, but no apple will be bitten into. Why? Only an automatic text message can unlock it, which is a control freak idea. Does it make him feel any better? Imagine if he’s in a meeting and is alerted about a panting spouse. What does he do? Leave the client and rush to save conjugal bliss? Will he reach on time? What if she was only indulging in a bit of self love? Or reading some erotic literature?

It is also an exceedingly regressive product. And to think that this is a gift for the woman. Do women want it? Is it not insulting? I can only hope this piece of bondage turns the tables and makes the recipients get on top and whip it out.

Another freaky idea for the boob trap is one of those make life easy bras. US engineer Randy Sarafan believes he has come to the rescue of millions of men and women by inventing a bra that will come off with a clap of hands. I think it is unromantic and quite chauvinistic. It is like a master clapping to get services rendered, for the woman won’t be doing the clapping. If fumbling with hooks was a problem in the throes of passion, how will this stupid act not douse the fire?

Think about a man standing behind and clapping and then the garment falls off. He would have to stand behind or she would have to be face down or well they would have to think about when to clap and what to do next, all kind of planned. Besides, what if his hands are clammy?

Honestly, hooks aren’t all that tough. I understand men don’t like to ask for directions, but at least in this case women would be quite ready to just release themselves. Guys, you can save the applause for after you’ve got it right, not before.


Indo-Pak Pieces and Bits

I find the phrase “diplomatic offensive” rather amusing. So, one such offensive took place yesterday when Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan was not arrested despite being caught with $142,000. He was not being harassed; this is customary procedure. I know there are people who will shoot back about transactions worth crores that get past. They do but they must not. It is as simple as that.

It is appalling that a report in the TOI can flaunt how he could get away with this:

The decision not to arrest the singer was influenced by the fresh peace process between India and Pakistan that started only a week ago.

At risk would be the PM’s latest effort to mend fences with Pakistan, because Rahat is not only a popular Bollywood singer, in many ways, he is also the voice of all attempts to foster India-Pakistan peace.

Great. It follows that we should not probe into other issues – whether it is Hafeez Saeed or Dawood Ibrahim – because we are talking peace. There was diplomatic pressure from Pakistan and there would be because he was a celebrity. The same prompt action is not taken when fishermen are caught only because of the tides that push them into each other’s territories.

And how does he become the voice of peace? We have had people like Mehdi Hassan and Reshma years ago, but there was no attempt to project this ‘aman ki asha’ commercial enterprise. Let us not say there was no need. Our relations with Pakistan have always been strained. If he is a Pakistani icon then I wish he’d get more singing assignments there. He is a marvellous singer, but it isn’t that we don’t have any of our own. I have repeatedly said that the import of performers is limited to the safe bets and those who will increase the TRPs. There is not sufficient reciprocity, though.

Regarding the practical issue, why was he carrying this much foreign currency? It is common practice for performers, Indians included, to be paid in cash, though they do show a percentage of their earnings on paper. Therefore, this is ridiculous:

Documents revealed that Khan sang in Hindi films for free as “a goodwill gesture”. However, DRI officials don’t buy it and suspect that the singer was paid Rs 15 lakh per song through a different manner, which they are investigating.

We have had cases of high-profile Indians who have been detained. There was the wife of an industrialist who was carrying undeclared jewellery; she had to put up with the investigations although she was known to wear a lot of these baubles.

More recently, the Income Tax raided the houses of Priyanka Chopra and Katrina Kaif. They are famous and ‘icons’, for whatever it is worth. I am quite certain they could and probably did use their contacts to hurry up the matter, but did the government put pressure?

The media is making it out to be a case of Indo-Pak relations and mentioning the cases of Adnan Sami and comedian Shakeel who was sent threatening messages by Raj Thackeray’s MNS. We know that this party threatens and roughs up Indians from other states as well. As for Adnan Sami, his property was attached because his wife has filed a suit against him.

Why does not anyone talk about peace initiative in this case?

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Salman Taseer’s killer Mumtaz Qadri has been indicted, but on Valentine’s day students and other fans sent him roses.

Now, wasn’t he supposed to be a hardcore Islamist and doing his bit for the religion? Then why are the clerics not flogging his supporters? Some Maulvi Ibrahim had threatened to flog anyone who was spotted selling or buying red roses. He said:

“Islam condemns Valentine’s Day and boys presenting flowers to young girls is vulgar and goes against the norms of Islam.”

If Islam follows the sharia, is there any hadith that actually mentions Valentine’s Day? Who is this man kidding? Is there mention of flowers, roses or lilies or even cacti, mentioned in any religious scripture of Islam and their role in corrupting morals? What is so vulgar about it?

Anyway, this is some mullah who has nothing better to do. He should be sent off to Syria, a nice Muslim country, where women wear the most enticing lingerie that have feathers and flowers. Some of these are gifts from their husbands.

Which makes me wonder: Is it okay in Islam if a man gives his spouse roses on V day? Or will he have to consult a maulvi about this impious act? And does placing flowers on graves of persons of the opposite sex also go against culture? Just asking…

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In India the Darul Uloom Deoband has come up with its latest fatwa:

“If a holy Muslim doctor advises that a woman is unable to bear birth pangs, then a less than three months old pregnancy can be terminated but if it is more than three months old, the abortion is absolutely unlawful.”

Medical practitioners already know that it is inadvisable to terminate a pregnancy later than three months. But how will this holy Muslim doctor know whether a woman can bear birth pangs six months in advance? Is he that holy? I assume this doctor is a male, so is it okay by the Deoband that a woman would be examined by him? Or will he only check her pulse and get a brainwave?

I think these guys should just take their business on the roads and get parrots to pick out cards to give ‘advice’.

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A man has been granted divorce due to mental cruelty. No, his wife was not tormenting him to perform well or nagging him or asking him for roses everyday. She just wore revealing clothes.

The courts thought he had a point:

Cruelty includes not only physical but mental cruelty as well. Ostensibly, she (wife) has indulged in bloating falsehood beyond proportions, additional district judge Manmohan Sharma ruled, accepting the husbands plea that he suffered mental agony as his wife regularly wore vulgar dresses. The court allowed the divorce plea saying mere living under one roof without the necessary ingredients of love and faith, which are the hallmark of a fruitful matrimonial relationship, is nothing but animal existence. The man contended that his wife wore vulgar clothes during their honeymoon. She dressed herself in a very vulgar manner and asked to change she retorted that she wanted to be noticed by at least 50 people.

Fine, it is possible for a man to feel disturbed and insecure. But there are instances when men like the idea of their wives being noticed. It is a huge ego boost. In this case, did she love him less? Did he lose interest in her? Was she unfaithful?

Let us flip this: If he wore lungis or tight-fitting jeans, would the court accept a divorce plea from her on grounds of mental cruelty?

These are indeed personal choices and the partners need to have some understanding, but it is unfair to undermine individuality. Men get attracted to women who are all sexed up but once they get married those very clothes, that foxy look and aggro attitude become a problem.

Stick to inflatable dolls. I think there is nothing in any religion's scriptures against this.


Modi’s Red Revolution

Will Narendra Modi transfer bootleggers? Will his cops have an ‘encounter’ with them? Not likely. For, the great leap forward that is Gujarat would take a backseat then. Every state has a thriving alcohol industry, but poor Modi is stuck with the legacy of prohibition and a not-too-complimentary red revolution. Illicit trade has of course continued. Now comes news that tomatoes are being used to ‘carry’ booze and they come at a pricey Rs. 250 per kg:

The bootleggers of Sardarnagar came up with the novel idea when they realised that most tipplers prefer tomatoes and onions with their daily shot of hooch. First, the tomato is softened and some of its juice is extracted with a syringe. Then, the liquor concoction is injected into it before freezing it. The tomatoes are then sold along with other vegetables by roadside vendors.

The bootleggers mix sleeping tablets in the concoction to make it more potent. But the arrangement has worked well for both the consumers as well as the sellers.

I am not sure many of those imbibing it are aware of the sleeping tablets. There is the whole business of spurious fruit, grains and vegetables going on anyway, but the consumers are buying these as necessities and not with the purpose of getting a high.

While some say they can eat these tomatoes in public without being caught, I wonder about the alertness of the police. If it is openly available, has no regular buyer noticed the difference in price and complained to the consumer forum? Don’t the police buy vegetables?

This is all part of the hypocrisy prevalent in our society. No, no, we cannot have alcohol in Gandhi’s Gujarat, they say, as though Gandhi owned Gujarat or ever chided his friends Nehru and Jinnah for drinking. Modi feels no affinity towards Gandhi and am quite certain he does not have a great dislike for ‘hard drinks’, although he might be a teetotaller. He is stuck with this moral business, though.

'Piya' tu, ab tau aaja:
Narendra Modi could chill with the drinkers

In this hour of need, I think he should simply hark back to our ancient civilisation – yes, the other bugbear he is stuck with – and quote from the scriptures about the potency and purity of somras, the elixir of the gods. He will then be free to lift prohibition, legalise the booze trade, invite Vijay Mallya to set up a brewery that uses only ingredients with a local flavour and market it as Gujarat’s asmita (self-esteem).

Right now, no one quite knows what sort of liquor is being sold; it does not appear to be very fine or one that will appeal to the discriminating palate. A proper scheme will add pride when there will be different wines, ‘Surti Scotch’, liqueurs with flavours of jeera (cumin seeds) and chhoondo (raw mango pulp mixed with sugar and other stuff) and, of course, vodka. Prafulbhai can ask his ‘Mrs’ Latikaben to get some farsan (snacks) ready as he pours his vaasi batatanu daaru (rotten potato tipple).

Narendra Modi will only consolidate his position as the economic messiah with the new halo of being Kingfisher’s kingmaker.

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Images: TOI and Narendra Modi.com

Sunday ka Funda

Don't you know you're talking about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper


Sex at 12?

Very soon, if the Bill is passed, Indian children will be permitted to have sex. I read this report a few days ago and am still trying to figure out what it means.

Twelve-year-old children may soon be legally permitted to have non-penetrative sex with children their age. That’s one of the proposals of a draft Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Bill, 2010, which has been sent to states by the ministry of women and child development for their views.

The Bill also seeks to introduce a gradation in the age of consensual non-penetrative sex (12-14 years and 14-16 years) against the existing age of consent for sex which is 16 years. It proposes that in case of the age group 12-14, the maximum age gap between partners should be two years. For the 14-16 group, the maximum gap should be three years.

What precisely qualifies as non-penetrative sex? Let me be clear: Is it restricted to vaginal or anal as well, given that with the legalisation of homosexuality sodomy is not a crime anymore? What is the reason for the reduction of age limit? How will it protect against sexual offences, when there are different forms of molestation that do not require penetration? What about oral sex? And soft child porn, which already has a huge market?

How will the authorities ascertain that it is consensual? Not many 12-year-olds are hooked on the internet and playing video games will blow-up dolls and preening guys. Imagine the consequences of children being subjected to a thorough physical ‘check-up’ in the school urinal or washroom. Will it change the norms of ragging? We will not even venture into such occurrences in small towns and villages.

The gap of two and three years will ensure that on paper there is no exploitation or paedophilia. But, an adult who has taken advantage of a youngster can well put the blame on a classmate of the victim or a neighbour or friend.

While a senior official of the ministry of women and child development confirmed that the Bill has been sent to state governments, law minister Veerappa Moily said he was not aware of it.

He had better wake up and not relegate his involvement to saying it is not right. For, these people have some silly ideas:

Aparna Bhat, an SC lawyer who was part of a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights group that drafted the latest bill said the gradation of age down to 12 years was to decriminalize sexual exploration by two children.

Under the existing law, if two 12-year-olds get physical and if one child’s parent complains, the other can be pulled up by the Juvenile Justice Board.

Sexual exploration? If they have attained puberty and are exposed to quite a bit of the stuff available, then they might progress beyond superficial exploration. It is ridiculous to assume that on the one hand there is talk of consent and then there is a mention about one child’s parent complaining. This can have vast social ramifications. How many kids will go and tell their parents they have agreed to have a doctor-doctor session with the girl/guy in school or down the road? If there is some bodily evidence or harm, then the complaint would be a matter of the parent taking over and crying foul even if it has been consensual.

We have a law against child marriage, even though such marriages made it mandatory for the children to reach a certain age before they could live together. This Bill is a regressive move under the garb of giving children the right to consent.

The minimum age in the US is between 16 and 18; in the UK, it is 16 and in Spain 13. We are truly starting young and putting the children, the future, on the block.


Of Ads and Incomplete News

"The advertisements in a newspaper are more full knowledge in respect to what is going on in a state or community than the editorial columns are."

- Henry Ward Beecher

This is the front page of today's TOI. It is not the only paper that has sold its front page to an advertisement, but to permit its whole front page to be used in a quasi editorial format is a serious issue. The blank spaces in the real news items had the colour of the ad and the words repeated, "Anything incomplete can be a pain." The ad was for a mouthwash and conveys that toothpaste can only clean your mouth 25 per cent; for a full cleanup, you need Listerine.

If we accept such crass transposition of editorial and advertising space, then it is prudent to ask just how the message of the ad can resonate with editorial content. How complete can news be at any given time? Is, say, 'the process of dialogue continues' an incomplete idea and how must the news complete it? Does it have the right to do so? What about misleading headlines? The 25 per cent job done does not apply to news for there are versions of it.

This brings us to Beecher's quote. To an extent it is quite an accurate assessment. Editorial content can be biased; ads are not. They have only one agenda: to sell. Selling assumes buyers. In times of the right smile and the bright smile, teeth do make a statement. News often has bite, but no teeth.

The market economy - and tired as I am of the term one has to use it often these days - has made sure that we are dependent on products. Our purchasing habits and what we desire reveal the state of where society is headed. It isn't full knowledge, in that it does not quite adequately reveal culture, tradition and mindsets, but superficial mores.

Products like soaps tend to emphasise glamour, although now the trend is to use 'real' women endorsing some brands. I watch them and, to be honest, the real women don't appeal to me. Neither does the glamour factor. Am I the aberration? I experiment and try out several types. Where does that leave brand loyalty?

This is the crux. People are loyal to a product not because of advertising. We may try it once or twice, and as a junkie of the new I most certainly am the vulnerable segment. That apart, anything that can wash and clean and smells interesting is fine. Recently, I chanced upon an absolutely delightful soap that is not advertised. I picked it up because of its main content - lemongrass. I'd end up smelling like a Thai curry, but that fragrance works for me. It was only when I reached home and looked carefully at the packaging that I discovered it has an inbuilt loofah. Smart? Maybe. But I think a bath is incomplete without a loofah (when there is none around I use a dish-scrubber, and not the spongy side!) The soap one is nice and works just as well, but I also use my regular one. It's double the scrub and besides dead skin I might be killing some more. It is habit. This is beyond completion.

The reason for this personal digression is that 'knowledge' is not a word we can use loosely. By introducing a new product, advertising does work as 'news'. And news that is pushed is advertising. There are no demarcating lines, except those of ethics. It raises the question about how one defines ethics in the realm of hawking. Is it merely a matter of being a "pain" when it does not fill in the blanks? Or is the existence of the blanks a more honest take in that it empowers the reader to think and figure out the larger picture?

Such symbolism is beyond those busy selling their own mastheads, but as readers we know what we need to do. That 75 per cent that is not mentioned is better left unsaid. We'll manage on our own, thank you.

Sunday ka Funda