Indira Gandhi Booked

The history of the Congress party being written by a group of people from within the fold is like the skin covering the flesh. But, as expected it has got politicians to react.

This is supposed to be some sort of commemorative effort because of the completion of the party’s 125 years.

The Congress’s history, written by a group of experts, has blamed Indira Gandhi’s policies for the party’s collapse in the Hindi heartland, including its stronghold of Uttar Pradesh, triggering surprise among leaders about the growing tolerance in the party over an alternate viewpoint.

Rubbish. This is not an alternative viewpoint but passing the buck. It is edited by Pranab Mukherjee, who is an acolyte of Manmohan Singh, who in turn is an obedient student of Sonia Gandhi, who in turn has to think of Rahul Gandhi, who in turn has failed to do much in UP, which in turn is the big trophy for any political party and had the whole thali of vote banks – Muslim, Brahmin, Dalit, farmer, zamindar, gun culture, culture and some of the most power-hungry people ever in this country sitting in positions of office.

I doubt if all those who are barfing now have read the book. The Congress probably leaked out the juicy bits about the Emergency, which no one can do anything about instead of more current and relevant issues. Of course, it is history and history will mention such events. I would like to read about the anti-Sikh riots and see whether they have shown up those characters who continued to hold office until recently. I want to know if Rajiv Gandhi’s comment after his mother’s assassination is mentioned. I want to know if Rajiv-Longowal pact is mentioned. I want to know if the role of India with regard to the LTTE is mentioned.

The Congress does not even know who the writer is. At least that is what cross-over politician V.C.Shukla said.

“There are only views and thoughts of some leaders in the book. Actually, Indiraji had done a good job in her tenure.”

Great. Indira Gandhi gets a certificate from the man who was a Sanjay Gandhi loyalist, then stayed on to get the goodies, left a while ago to join the BJP and is now back in the Congress.

The BJP has its own take on the book:

“The party is personality dominated and there are differences on every issue. Whether it is the Maoist issue or other ones, the party lacks unanimity on issues.”

Yes. Now tell us why did Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari squabble yesterday? What were the dynamics in the relationship between L.K.Advani and A.B.Vajpayee? Why does the BJP play one game and let the RSS act as its boss?

This is just a book. If only all political parties would reveal what is between the lines of their own chapters and verses.

Forgetting a War

Joshua’s lips quivered just a bit. This was sadness that crept stealthily, crushing leaves underfoot but not before the trees had been laden with fruit. Joshua, born into a war, of an Italian Jewish father and a mother from an aristocratic family, had pride as well as curiosity. The Guido and Dora love story was a sacrifice to retain his innocence.

I have read a lot on World War II and seen quite a few films; much of it has had a deep impact. Life Is Beautiful, that I watched again recently, has stayed by my side because it clasped the heart. No amount of fighting and strategy could convey what Guido sought to conceal. For me the film was less about war than it was about peace – the peace within us that seeks order, that thirsts for a few drops of rain on parched earth, that clamours to hold on to clammy palms to share fears and thereby lessen them.

Some had criticised it as being too simplistic. What is not simplistic about deciding enemies and shooting off your mouth and damning whole sections of people only because you need to protect a geographical space? What is not simplistic about control? What is not simplistic about the belief that you are superior only because you belong to a place that seems superior? Think about Chaplin’s brilliant portrayal of Hitler (and a Jewish barber) in The Great Dictator and see how simplistic it can be when the roles are swapped.

Joshua’s education in forgetting is nuanced. It is easy to remember, to learn by rote, to take mental snapshots of what is happening and see the worst in it. It is not easy to watch all this and believe that it is not what it appears to be. If Guido tells his son that some of the things he is supposed to do are games, then games were indeed being played by the big powers, big boys with big ammunition getting into a huddle and forming groups, much like children do at school and in play areas, but much worse. They were not destroying places or conquering them; they were destroying the worth of people’s identities, soiling them with small ideologies. It was a muddy, bloody battle. The family knew it was not a game, but that tank which was to be theirs to conquer symbolised victory over forces stronger.

The father is shot dead, and Joshua does not know about it. The hidden is so much more potent. Why does the child believe his stories for so long? There is only one answer: Faith that comes from love. This isn’t a war story, but a love story where forgetting is more important than remembering.


Sunday ka Funda

The Sheikhs of the skullcaps

Bahaudin Naqshband (c. 1389A.D.) was approached by the sheikhs of four Sufi groups in India, Egypt, Turkey (Roum), and Persia. They asked him, in eloquently-worded letters, to send them teachings which they could impart to their followers.

Bahaudin first said: 'What I have is not new. You have it and do not use it correctly: therefore you will simply say when you receive my messages, "These are not new".'

The sheikhs replied: 'With respect, we believe that our disciples will not think thus.'

Bahaudin did not reply to these letters, but read them in his assemblies, saying: 'We at a distance will be able to see what happens. Those who are in the midst of it will not, however, make the effort to see what is happening to them.'

Then the sheikhs wrote to Bahaudin and asked him to give some token of his interest. Bahaudin sent one small skullcap, the araqia, for each student, telling their sheikhs to distribute them as from him, without saying what the reason might be.

He said to his assembly: 'I have done such-and-such a thing. We who are far will see what those who are near to events will not see.'

Now he wrote, after a time, to each of the sheikhs, asking them whether they had abided by his wishes, and what the result had been.

The sheikhs wrote: 'We have abided by your wishes.' But as to the results, the sheikh of Egypt wrote: 'My community eagerly accepted your gift as a sign of special sanctity and blessing, and as soon as the caps were distributed each person regarded them as of the greatest inner significance, and as carrying your mandate.'

And the sheikh of the Turks wrote, on the other hand: 'The community regard your cap with great suspicion. They imagine that it betokens your desire to assume their leadership. Some are afraid that you may even influence them from afar through this object.'

There was a different result from the sheikh in India, who wrote: 'Our disciples are in great confusion, and daily ask me to interpret to them the meaning of the distribution of araqia. Until I tell them something about this, they do not know how to act.'

The letter from the sheikh of Persia said: 'The result of your distribution of the caps has been that the Seekers, content with what you have sent them, await your further pleasure, so that they may place at the disposal of their teaching and of themselves the efforts which should be made.'

Bahaudin explained to an audience of hearers in Bokhara: 'The dominant superficial characteristic of the people in the circles of India, Egypt, Turkey and Persia was in each case manifested by the reactions of their members. Their behaviour when faced with a trivial object such as a skullcap would been exactly the same if they had been faced with me in person, or with teachings sent by me. Neither the people nor their sheikhs have learned that they must look among themselves for their choking peculiarities. They should not use these trivial peculiarities as methods to assess others.'

'Among the disciples of the Persian sheikh there is a possibility of understanding, because they have not the arrogance to imagine that they "understand" that my caps will bless them, will threaten them, will confuse them. The characteristics here are, in the three cases: Egyptian hope, Turkish fear and Indian uncertainty.'

Some of the epistles of Bahaudin Naqshband had meanwhile been copied as a pious act and distributed by well-meaning but unenlightened dervishes in Cairo, Hind and the Persian and Turki areas. They eventually fell into the hands of the circles surrounding these very 'Sheikhs of the Skullcaps'.

Bahaudin, therefore, asked one wandering Kalendar to visit each of these communities in turn, and to report to him how they felt about his epistles.

This man said on his return: 'They all said: "This is nothing new. We are doing all these things already. Not only that, but we are basing our daily lives on them, and by our existing tradition, we keep ourselves occupied day in and day out with remembrance of these things".'

El-Shah Bahaudin Naqshband thereupon called all his disciples together. He said to them: 'You who are at a distance from certain events connected with these four sheikhly groupings will be able to see how little has been accomplished by the working of the Knowledge among them. Those who are present there have learned so little that they can no longer profit from their own experiences. Where, therefore, is the advantage of the "daily remembrances and struggle"?'

'Make it a task to collect all the available information about this event, inform yourselves of the whole story, including the exchange of letters and what I have said, as well as the report of this Kalendar here. Bear witness that we have offered the means whereby others could learn. Cause this material to be written down and studied, and let those who have been present witness it so that, God willing, even reading about it might prevent such things happening frequently in future, and might even enable it to come to the eyes and ears of those who were so powerfully affected the the "action" of inactive skullcaps.'

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I received this from a reader in London, who does not have to deal with skullcaps! Thank you, if you are reading this. As you can see, true words always reach out.

The Axe Defect

This guy has been using a deodarant for seven years but as he rues, "No girl came to me." He sued the company.

Deo ads are in trouble in India at the moment for being suggestive and showing " women lustily hankering after men". The ads also "brim with messages aimed at tickling men's libidinous instincts".

If there were no deos men would not get tickled?

There is no escaping these ads but they are quite humorous and will work on adolescent boys. I mean, to tell us that Axe is now offering more we get to see the bottle's phallic-like head growing. If they'd have shown a man's wallet or his mind displaying similar growth maybe it would have some effect.

It is pretty hilarious to watch some guy spraying himself and suddenly women go all pouty, eyes glazed and follow him. This is more Pied Piper than serious sexy.

And what is wrong with women getting attracted to men? Don't we see ads where men eye a woman for her clothes, makeup and how she even manages to do well at her job because of some talc?

And what about the ad where a woman makes carrot halwa with some readymade mix due to a last-minute demand by her husband who is bringing home his boss and colleagues? This too can be construed as hankering.

We see ads of men's underwear - so who are they appealing to? Saif Ali Khan does a joker on the track laidback act and reaches the finish line before the athletes. Duh. Any sensible female would notice their toned legs rather than this guy's Amul chaddi that needs a dhobi, not a woman.

So, please don't worry about women. The only time they swoon is when they feel light-headed. Or when they look in the mirror.


Hindus, Muslims and a Toilet

Next time I want to become part of the ‘mainstream’ I will wear red bracelets. If any of you thought that Hinduism was associated with saffron, then according to the ISI’s Major Iqbal it is not quite so. It is red. The Left parties are still nursing wounds and here some Pakistani even takes away their colour. Oh, but the Hindutvawadis had also taken away the hammer during Babri no? And maybe the sickle during the excavation? Commies are bereft and all because of the ISI.

One more story on the David Headley 'investigation'. He bought 15 red bracelets to be worn by the attackers so that they could disguise themselves as Hindus. This is part of the evidence and I can imagine those American backpacker tourists saying, “Yeah, yeah, that’s wotwesaah at those aahsim taimpills.”

I saw Shakti Kapoor wearing one. At the Ajmer dargah. Every religion has this red thread/bracelet thing, okay? Honestly, can we get serious about this? Would the Indian intelligence authorities look at the wrists of suspects? Next they will say people with varicose veins are chosen to be disguised as green Muslims.

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Smita Thackeray has complimented Muslims for not being swayed by LeT and al Qaida. What to do, Smitaji. We only sway when we are drunk.

“It is a matter of great satisfaction that Muslims have retained faith in India’s unity and communal harmony.”

Gee, thanks. Now your turn.

“The prayers of Hindus and Muslims will shield Balasaheb from any threat. The Ajmal Kasabs, Ranas and David Headleys can’t touch him, Sonia-ji or Manmohan Singh.”

What about atheists?

Ms. Thackeray’s new-found interest is because she is making a film called Babri on Babri. She insists it will be from the common man’s perspective. Of course. I should hope to see a lot of Behrampada, of Madhukar Sarpotdar and the arms, of people being made to pull down their pants in cosmopolitan Mumbai, of honest cops who were transferred. It can all be fictionalised.

Incidentally, Aamir Khan has helped her with the script. This is one common man we can wash our hands of and who will do anything to market anything.

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I do not know of many people who if they need to go the loo will take the name of the toilet. Will someone who happens to be in the Bhuleshwar area and wishes to use the facilities say, “I want to go to Kasturba Gandhi”?

No. But we have to create a noise. One bloke is angry because of one such toilet name:

“This is my fight because the public seems to be afraid to speak up. I think the British (appear in a better light) at this point since they named the road after Kasturba Gandhi, thus honouring her. We, on the other hand, have done the opposite and degraded her.”

Her husband degraded her long ago when he gave her a broom and expected her to clean lavatories. Mahatma Gandhi had great respect for ‘toilet training’. The self-righteousness by citizens is unnecessary. Shit happens, so no need to get pissed off.

Oprah's Divine Comedy: Winfrey the Pooh

Winfrey the Pooh 
Oprah’s Divine Comedy
by Farzana Versey
Counterpunch, May 27-29 

They were discussing thighs. The woman was wearing a blue garish printed veil, the uncovered face revealed a touch of kohl in her dark eyes. She was telling her host that what Moroccan men are most attracted to in women are thighs – they like them thick. The Oprah Winfrey show was now not a secret watch in parts of the Arab world; she was hosting it there. As the young woman held forth, Oprah went on a relentless examination of a part of the female anatomy. It was obvious she thought she was breaking some barrier when thighs, men, women and ideas about pulchritude have existed since the existence of civilisation.

Oprah is about breaking imagined barriers.

She has bid farewell to the show after 25 years. What sustained it for this long? Much of what was revealed is what we hear in everyday life, what we experience and what we don’t. Yet, using these same ideas she created an alterative universe. However real the reality in her shows was it was reality amplified by auto-suggestion.

A more comprehensive reading would suggest that the show could be divided into three main ideas.


Excessiveness was an important part of the exercise. Laughter and tears were loud and flowing. There would be distended stomachs, bruises more purple than prose. As in Roman feasts, where people went on an eating binge and then vomited to start feasting again, true stories were retched out. Humorist Josh Billings’ take is apt here: “As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand.”

Without the abundance, there would have been a need for the core. Oprah was about the circuitous route; the essence lay in the maze.

Her personality lent itself rather well to such profligacy, from her girth to the big hair, the big heart, the large camaraderie. But, her projection of little people in fact showed up their littleness. Their foibles and warts were huge as compared to their personalities. They were here in the Confession Box. The studio had an almost-church like atmosphere where the host played priest and choir girl by turns, until the Moses-like denouement.

She did pretty outlandish things, was outspoken, and dressed the part. It camouflaged the traditionalist inside her. It made her craving for infallibility as self-conscious as her vulnerability: “Though I am grateful for the blessings of wealth, it hasn’t changed who I am. My feet are still on the ground. I’m just wearing better shoes.”

And those better shoes came from many a soiled feet that entered the hallowed show. She appeared to tell them that they could do it, but would they have that opportunity?


Misery was flaunted on the red carpet and posed for the cameras – its couture more discussed than its merits. People on the Oprah show seemed to regurgitate the deviant without owning them. There was a disconnect between the teller and the telling. Even if none of it was stage-managed, one could decipher an element of training, of being ushered into a hall of shame in hushed whispers. It is not difficult for people to sense what is expected. While for the ordinary person this seemed like a purging of evil, an exorcism, celebrities were given to believe that this would humanise them.

There was no mirror more qualified than Oprah. At the grand finale she said: “But I’m truly amazed that I, who started out in rural Mississippi in 1954, when the vision for a black girl was limited to being either a maid or a teacher in a segregated school, could end up here. It is no coincidence that a lonely little girl who felt not a lot of love, even though my parents and grandparents did the best they could – it is no coincidence that I grew up to feel genuine kindness, affection, validation and trust from millions of you all over the world. From you whose names I will never know, I learned what love is. You and this show have been the great love of my life.”

This is true, but most of the recognition talks about her blackness: the first black billionaire, the greatest black philanthropist, the richest African-American of the 20th century. Has black society altered and has the perception about blacks changed? The ‘teacher-segregated school’ is also what the Oprah Winfrey show is about. There was this bubble of sorrow and with every pinprick of a query it would burst. The sorrow would not disappear because it wasn’t there in the first place. The internalisation was left untouched. The balm and the gauze were for this bubble that settled like dew. The show worked as well as faith-healing, people limping back to normal and basking in the warmth of the arc lights and then out in the cold holding on to their crutches. Art had imitated life, but not limited it.

The simulation analogy can be best explained in the totalitarian philosophy as expounded by George Orwell: “It not only forbids you to express – even to think – certain thoughts, but it dictates what you shall think, it creates an ideology for you, it tries to govern your emotional life as well as setting up a code of conduct. And as far as possible it isolates you from the outside world, it shuts you up in an artificial universe in which you have not standards of comparison.”

Oprah had set herself up as a role model, when the millions who were with her were like the Beatles acolytes were for John Lennon. He was one of them but he remained Lennon. She employed the classic Lennon anthem as her modus operandi: Imagine.


Is imagining about hope or about despair? Had there been happy stories, then the Oprah show would have wound up long ago. It is important to ask here whether the hates/loves/desires that dare not take their name have brought about any change. Iconoclasm is a much-abused term. The populist need not be iconoclastic. A show may be a hit, but what kind of impact does it have, has it altered the way people think, feel?

One cannot state that, “Oh, this was just a TV show.” It was not. It became a cult, and cults have some responsibility. Oprah did what she could, but it was the Big O, a few seconds of happy numbness. She treated her staff well, she took her audience on holidays. These are freebies. The stereotype of the Mamma. The world is full of varied ideas and varied behaviour, so it is disconcerting that she did not push the envelope, except when stuffing it with a few dollar bills to assuage guilt and express gratitude.

In fact, archetypes were trussed up and embarrassingly displayed. The brazen wore little and the demure played their part. The obsession with the body only consolidated set views even if they were to debunk them. Alternative sexuality was given the worst possible treatment when she invited an ‘Indian prince’ who is out of the closet. He came in regal finery that he has no right to as a representative of India, which has done away with royalty. The gall of having someone in a position of power, however titular, to convey the views of the gay community was such an Oprah thing to do. You cannot just be a misery maven, you’ve got to lay it thick and be king.

She had a banquet but offered fast food. This was part of the show’s attraction. The host knew what she was doing, even if some of it was subliminal. A broken soul, broken self-worth, fighting for convictions – these brought fear, a persecution complex and arrogance. The arrogance of humility: “What we’re all striving for is authenticity, a spirit-to-spirit connection.”

A spiritual connection does not look for authenticity, which is tied to the strings of dynamic facts and changing alliances within the mainstream. You cannot talk about the facetiousness of fame when you are a product of such evanescent celebrity. It is not the legitimisation that makes for icons but the potential of returning to their ruthless roots. Winfrey did attempt that, but by default, by just blowing up the cocoon a bit more. She reached the world and out at the world, yet her confinement was narrower than it appears. “There is one expanding horror in American life,” believed Norman Mailer, that cogent chronicler of the American’s internal dilemma. “It is that our long odyssey toward liberty, democracy and freedom-for-all may be achieved in such a way that utopia remains forever closed, and we live in freedom and hell, debased of style, not individual from one another, void of courage, our fear rationalized away.”

Such fears on the show were stamped and sealed like factory-produced wares. The potency was in the reaction to the pinch and the pitch. She took the ready-made material and gave it a new language and identity. Pop analysis tends to label such people revolutionaries when all they do is to recreate. To continue with it for a quarter of a century is commendable, but not impossible. That is why Oprah Winfrey will be remembered as a fine juggler, not a magician.


3 Idiots: IIT, IIM and the Minister

A distorted image of a scene from the Hindi film 3 Idiots

Since when have IITs and IIMs become shrines that everyone has to bow before them and whatever comes out of those hallowed corridors is to be considered some holy benediction?

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and the hurt alumni and faculty of the institutes are both narrow-minded. Here is what the minister had said:

“There is hardly any worthwhile research from our IITs. The faculty in the IIT is not world class. It is the students in IITs who are world class. So the IITs and IIMs are excellent because of the quality of students not because of quality of research or faculty.”

What exactly is world-class? Don’t we have our own standards to judge? There is some pretty wimpy stuff coming out of Ivy League universities. The IITs and IIMs depend on government funding, so Mr. Ramesh has just given them an opportunity to crib about how they are short of money and shackled by government interference.

It is no wonder that reports mention the kneejerk response that this one statement has received. Typically, they have pulled up the minister, asking him to hold forth on the quality of politicians. Pretty lame. For not only is the minister a product of such an institute, there are many others, and quite a few of them in fact confirm what he says – not about the faculty, but about the students. The hierarchy is in place and those who get in assume they are better than the rest.

And what is so great about those students? Many take the first opportunity to go overseas and then after they have made it return with a cheque to donate to their alma mater. Those who remain here end up doing staid academic jobs; the more enterprising ones consider research to mean rehashing the minutiae of what they did at the institutes in columns, books and films and these are lapped up because our ‘youth segment’ is now interested in the techie/managerial route to success decoded in simplistic paneer wrap language.

Oh, before I forget, a little bit of mandatory failure along the way is seen as idealism. Idiots.

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I had written a more detailed piece on a related subject in Understanding the Rot in Academia


Leave Indian Muslims out of this

I have already stated my views on the Headley deposition. It is turning out to be even more bizarre. Here are portions from a report that needs to be ripped apart:

Headley and Rana even debated who should declare jihad, whether a head of an Islamic state, as Rana believed, or someone else. Headley explained that a head of state was necessary only if it was to be “offensive” jihad, but for “defensive” jihad of the kind currently underway it was not necessary.

Was this some coffee-shop discussion? Were they not working for a terrorist outfit or were they important enough blokes to debate about such decisions? If the LeT is involved it does not need to specifically declare a jihad. It is not like you say, “Lights! Camera! Action!” and the cameras will roll. And what exactly does ‘head of an Islamic state’ mean? Surely, they did not imagine Saudi Arabia would chip in with the clapper board? If the ISI has to be implicated, there are better ways to do it.

How does Headley become an expert? If we see this as just a terrorist plan pushing for a holy war, then the concept of offense and defence does not arise. The believers assume it is in the defence of the religion.

Another striking disclosure that Headley made relates to the 2002 Muslim massacre in Gujarat in the aftermath of the killings of 50 Hindu pilgrims at Godhra. In fact, he said the massacre was one of the triggers for him personally to get involved in 26/11. He said between 2002 and 2007, the LeT had received hundreds of letters from Muslims in Gujarat seeking help. He even referred to an undercover video recording of a Hindu activist called Babu Bajrangi who had bragged about personally having killed Muslims.

What is so striking about this disclosure? Everyone who carries out such acts will use their co-religionists. These are dubious claims and if Headley was so concerned about Gujarat why did he want to get his dream launch in Kashmir? This is devious in the extreme because Indian Muslims have not turned to Pakistan to help them in any crisis. Here we have Narendra Modi boasting about how Muslims in his state are doing so well. He should be the one contradicting such statements.

There is no need for undercover videos when our national leaders have made their biases clear. But, a large segment of the population is not taken in by this. The LeT is not interested in helping out Indian Muslims or any Muslims for that matter. Terrorists are killing Muslims in Pakistan. And they will not wait for over six years to strike when they do have the ability to infiltrate and the arsenal to carry out attacks.

It is utter hogwash to involve the Indian Muslim population. As it is they go on a guilt trip each time some Islamist is behind attacks. I don’t find Hindus feeling guilty or taking out morchas because of Malegaon or Bhiwandi or Babri. And they absolutely do not have to. But Muslims, with their so-called well-wishers, will wear those starched kurtas and skull caps and parade like puppets.

For an illiterate and backward community Indian Muslims are certainly being accused of too much letter-writing. After the Bombay riots, they said that Dawood Ibrahim carried out the March blasts because the Muslims wrote to him. He cannot even protect his brother, so how will he protect the community?


Sunday ka Funda

"And I will show you something different from either your shadow at morning striding behind you or your shadow at evening rising to meet you; I will show you fear in a handful of dust."

- T. S. Eliot

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Don't want to close my eyes
I don't want to fall asleep
And I don't want to miss a thing


Armageddon - Aerosmith


Swami Agnivesh's Double Barrel

He wears orange robes and then appears on behalf of 'civil society'. Why does no one pull up Swami Agnivesh for mixing religion and politics?

Now during a conference with Syed Shah Geelani of the Hurriyat Conference he talked about aspirations of the Kashmiri people. Very slyly he sneaked in a controversial comment about the Amarnath Yatra. Had he delved into the security issues, it would have some validity. Instead, he called the ice formation of the Shivalinga melting a fraud, so what faith was this?

I have a few points:

1. Hindu religion believes in idol worship and all idols are made of some material that breaks. Why, some are put out at sea. When he was initiated, did he not worship anything?

2. In dargahs, the tombstones are indicators of a dead saint. Often, the body is not even buried there and, if it is, it would have degenerated over a period of time. Why are they so popular?

3. The embalmed body of St. Francis Xavier in Goa is a religious and tourist attraction. What value does it have?

Are all of these frauds? A voice should be raised against superstition and blind belief and especially if it causes friction among different groups. As I mentioned, the Amarnath Yatra does result in security issues, and in the past caused deaths during clashes. What does the Swami have to say about that?

His opportunism is clearly visible because he chose to make the comment in Kashmir where he was meeting a separatist leader. His so-called concern for the Kashmiri people gets a setback because often they help in the smooth running of the pilgrimage.

His is politicking of the worst kind, for he portrays himself as a spokesperson of Kashmiris and by default all Indian Muslims. This is what causes problems.

If he wants to address the fraud in the Hindu faith, then he should go where the action is and give his two bits or lecture from some temple or ashram pulpit. And tell us why he is wearing those saffron robes.

Civil society does not need moonlighting sadhus.


So, Prof. Hawking, how about hell?

Stephen Hawking says something quite ordinary and there is a reaction. The battle between science and religion is old and makes little sense. Although a non-religious person, I really don’t get excited about monkeys or the Big Bang theory. Does that mean there is a teeny-weeny bit of hope that I might be ready for some Edenesque idea or whatever the counterparts? To make it simple, I do not rule out possibilities, which is a scientific attitude.
In fact, most seekers who go to religion do so as an experiment. The main problem I have with Hawking is the statement that has been doing the rounds:

“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

This is facile in the extreme. While the brain may be likened to a computer, what about the software? There are several of those and they can be loaded whenever we want as per our requirements. The failure of the computer is technical, not philosophical or psychological. A brain-dead person, or one who suffers cardiac failure for that matter, is the end of life. It does not end the possibilities for the living.

Hawking’s problem is to see religion as a fairytale. It isn’t. Outside of organised religion, there are very many stories, and I have no idea how he concludes that these stories are for those who are afraid of the dark. By saying so, he assumes that death is dark and not as much of a happenstance as his scientific beliefs are trying desperately to convey. I wonder what he has to say about science fiction. It is hypothetical, it creates larger than life heroes with ‘god-like’ abilities. The scientist himself is considered some sort of miracle because he has survived despite a debilitating disease. Of course, it is science that makes him accessible to the world, but when he is applauded for his willpower, what is the scientific basis for it? Where does the urge to live against odds come from?

I am most certainly not alluding to a belief system, but to the philosophical dimensions beyond a computerised brain. It might be a wicked idea to posit the gravitational aspect of Newton’s discovery with the enticement of a serpent. It could have been an orange. Why did it have to be an apple?

It would be interesting to add here that almost all ‘religious’ fairytales are up for scrutiny on a regular basis and hypothetical questions are asked of them. It is true that the vast majority is made up of blind believers, but are there watertight compartments about scientific theories? Have they not been debunked or proven wrong?

I wonder why there has been no mention of hell, which comes as a package deal with heaven. Stephen Hawking should know that the devil is in the details.

India's most wanted lists and politics

There is something amiss. A man’s name appears on the list of ‘50 most wanted criminals’ India gives Pakistan, where it believes they are. It turns out that he has been living in Thane, Mumbai. Why has it caused embarrassment about lack of coordination and why has the Home Minister owned up responsibility for the mistake?

Chidambaram called the bungle a “genuine oversight” and a “human error”. He said Wazhul Kamar Khan’s name has now been taken off the list and Pakistan was being informed through Interpol.

“We take responsibility. It is a mistake. How this mistake has happened has been explained. The CBI through Interpol will convey this to Pakistan.”

There was some asinine analysis about how Pakistan will now have the arsenal to taunt us about other names and their veracity. Khan’s name was on that list in 2007 too, which P Chidambaram himself admits to with some gumption. Did Pakistan react then? Did anyone bother at that time? As though Pakistan is about to hand over the other 49 to us. As though names on such lists matter. As though we care about such wanted people.

This ‘feeling bad for the mistake’ is just a smokescreen, not for Pakistan, but for the Indian constituency, and we know which one. The BJP too has jumped in about incompetence! Khan was an accused in the 2003 blasts in Mulund but was released on bail and no chargesheet was filed. This ought to be the real issue. Because Khan is not the only one. There are several people in our jails who do not have any tangible case against them. Why politicise the lack of co-ordination between the Mumbai Police and the Information Bureau when far worse instances are there to be considered?

The reason we have factored in the human error could also be that we can assume Pakistan will raise its eyebrows and ask, “Dawood who?” And that will satisfy us. No running after the don. Let him run his business.

- - -

Yesterday’s news reports were telling us about how Dawood Ibrahim’s brother survived an attack on his life when he was out on his post-diner stroll in Nagpada and then two motorcyclists appeared so he ducked behind a car; his driver/bodyguard took the bullets. As it turns out, today they have discovered that Iqbal Kaskar was at home.

Now they are going through the fine details of who it could be and if this is a new beginning for gang wars. Some police officials say it was a small gang; some say it could be Dawood’s enemies and he may retaliate. Does anyone keep track of the number of murders that take place in the city? It is interesting that the cops are not pointing fingers at Chhota Rajan, Dawood’s biggest foe, except to bring his name is as the usual suspect.They've already caught two guys from Nepal.

One may go a step further and say that it need not be any rival gang at all. Most gangs are now living outside and India is only their pit stop for ‘fuel’ replenishment. The Kaskar family must be in the radar of the authorities, and they know who goes for after-dinner strolls and whose bodyguard is where at any given time.

Whatever it is, this won’t work as bait for Dawood to show up or send his emissaries to wreak vengeance. The possibility of others being used as red herrings cannot be ruled out, though. And of course, the aftermath – encounter killings.

Talk of human error.

- - -

End note:

Rahul Gandhi may or may not have been misquoted about the 74 bodies found after rapes and murders committed by the Uttar Pradesh Police, but his interest in Noida is truly 'grassroots'. His reportage was based on what some villagers told him. The Congress says that all he mentioned was there was a 70-foot area with a heap of ash where bones were found. There are such heaps, in Noida and several other places.

Perhaps, he’d like to bring the Nithari murders and the Aarushi killing to the fore since he is so into Noida these days? There are names, the cases have been dragging on, evidence is on display. What is he waiting for?



Yes. So? I don’t plead guilty to it. I am not guilty about it. The accusations have been piling up for many months now: I do not feel victimised and I am not looking for a shoulder to hold on to. This post is about me, so if you are not into me, you may skip it. But this is also about you. Betrayal was about you, the ones whose silences seek to coagulate in my bloodstream.

Before we get anywhere with this, let me tell you why I can take a stand.

There were emails, calls. It was an invitation to speak on a subject I have written about often. This wasn’t the first time. I don’t feel the need to flash it, especially since I mostly stay away, anyway. But today I will tell you because I am honestly fed up. I will tell you because those who want debates fall silent when it matters. I will tell you because when I talk about co-opting it means from anyone anywhere and the term itself can be broadly classified.

So when those emails came quite recently to be one of the speakers, and from people who are deeply involved and extremely respected, I paused. It did not surprise me, but unlike many people who would be glad to make the journey to another city in an all-paid-for trip, my instant reaction was: Why?

I called up a friend who is in, let us just say a security agency, but does not toe any line. “What would you do?” I asked him.

“Of course, I’d go and you should.”

“Where do they get the money from?”

“All NGOs are given some funds from government sources and then they have their well-wishers.”

“Who are the well-wishers?”

“They could be people who believe in this.”

“They already have speakers, so why call me the distance, and how will it add to anything?”

“I think your voice needs to be heard…”

“I write.”

“That is not enough. You need to understand that such visibility is important. It will be reported in the papers, and such things matter.”

Do they? How do my ‘ivory tower’ scribbles transform into an agent of change by just bellowing into a microphone? Although I believe strongly in the subject, I found it difficult to identify with the linearity of the proposed discussion, although this was the only way to highlight the issue.

I did not go.

I have too many questions. Where are the answers?

I share with you portions of email exchanges with two people; they encapsulate what has been said a good many times. The first is specific to a recent subject; the other is more general. I am omitting the praise that was in both of them.

From X

Note 1 (On the latest Binayak Sen piece):

Should we always be anti-establishment ? It makes one's job simpler, isn't it? You don't take any responsibility, you only criticise. I do not mean anybody in particular. I know you have taken sides, rationally, in just the previous article about Rahul Gandhi and Mayavati. But sometimes, when you are in the actor's seat.... What happens then ? (I am rather fond of that Hamlet character!)

What is wrong with Binayak accepting an advisory position with Planning Commission? I know that he is not guilty of the charges framed against him and I know how apathetic the system can be.

I know the various routes of co-option and allure of an easy life. Certainly I see the dangers ahead of this appointment. And I wholeheartedly endorse your view that there are innumerable tribals etc. who will not have access to such fame and international support. What should we do about them?

My reply:

I do not know Binayak Sen or anyone close to him to be able to comment. (The person is acquainted with people.)

I wonder if you have read my pieces in support of Binayak Sen, arguing the loopholes in the case. I still believe in that. However, one day his wife Ilina talks about seeking asylum in a "more liberal country". Next, she says nothing of the kind, they will stay here. She did not mention that she was misquoted. It was a change of stance, just like that. This bothers me.

I wish my current critique were read holistically. It is surprising that you say it is easy to be anti-establishment. Had the situation been different, we'd not have thought so. I keep talking about the anti-establishmentarian cliques that form their own System, with heroes in place.

Even though I dislike Modi, when there were murmurs about how the activist lobby tutored witnesses, I did want them to come clean. These standards apply to everyone. So, what does this mean…I am anti-anti-anti?

Meanwhile, the governments use such opportunities and we have people conveniently change their stands.

This is what is frightening. I do not think many people would have signed petitions had they known that a political party would jump in. And how many people are going to talk about this, anyway?

An actor is also a character. I like Hamlet, too, but where would he be without the ghosts?

Thank you for an engaging dialogue even if we disagree.

Note 2 (I am withholding personal references about people):

I know, Farzana. My response to your post was knee-jerk, and more on emotion than logic. Of course you are right (as usual!).

I was also bothered by Ilina's statements, contradicting her earlier stance.

Hamlet will be forever haunted by his ghosts, it seems.

Regards and best wishes,

P.S. I am sorry about that responsibility bit. Of course, for some of us action is synonymous with writing, exposing or highlighting issues we consider important. (Remember "Plebians rehearse the uprising" by Gunter Grass ?)

My reply:

Perhaps I am not right and just centred, even self-centred in the metaphysical sense?

It is curious but after I had written about the Anna Hazare campaign, a friend said, “This is the first time I have seen you so establishment!” What does one say to that? He understood what I was conveying, and here’s an important detail – he is part of the establishment, quite literally.

I am beginning to think that Hamlet is beyond ghosts and more about altered graveyards.

Incidentally, I do not resent intellectual engagement with the Sen case; it is the one-dimensional nature of it that makes me wonder about how crusty any counter position can get.

Talking of Gunter Grass, he also said, “Art is accusation, expression, passion. Art is a fight to the finish between black charcoal and white paper.”

What we get, alas, is black on black and white on white.

* * *

From Y:


I dont think I really understand half of what you write (and then I despair) but I love the way you write it. What you write FEELS right. My one, small, humble "criticism" (observation is a better word) is that...you're always protesting something...you come off as being very unsatisfied with everything around you. If that is your motivation to write thats fine...I just wish the dissatisfaction wasn't so...relentless? I would love to read your analysis on something that pleases you. I hope I havent offended you or made myself sound like a fool.

My reply:

Shukriya...even if some of it is a bit dense, it is mainly about feeling, whether right or wrong.

Yes, the latter is an important aspect of right, in my opinion. I am not offended by your remarks because I hear them often. I'd say I am not complacent. It does not mean those who do not come across this way are, but I take it to the next level. And, if I may say so, I have seen most of what I write at close quarters for long. My opinions are formed with this background and not as a 'seminarist'.

It always feels good to get feedback, so isn't this positivity?

* * *

Beyond notes:

So what is this negativity? Are not the things I write about/against negative, to begin with – anti-civility, anti-poor, anti-caste, anti-good sense? My motivation to write is not limited to expressing dissatisfaction; if that were the only reason I wrote, then why the poems, the musings, the sex, the other BS? I don’t even have a motive to write. I express and articulate and never claim to speak on behalf of anyone. It pleases me when I have written something that I feel about, that resonates within me.

There are dark corners, and I go there. It includes the dark corners of my own mind. If I go into a coal mine, it need not be to find a diamond or even coal but to look for the dried sweat of coalminers or to feel the soot in my hands, my mouth, my eyes. I am not Aesop’s Fables. Okay, even my poems are quite macabre, my doodles are just stuff I do when I am…angry? I don’t know. I am usually at peace with myself even when I am protesting. Maybe because I am not comatose. Maybe because when I shout from the mountains I am listening to the sound of the wind and not my own echo, forget other people’s echoes. Now you watch as they lie in wait for others to say something and then come out with their ‘original’ vision – a twist here, a twist there. Maybe after I have written one piece, I don’t lie back and watch the circus unfold, but follow up. Is this relentless? It is. Because every story that has more than one character is about many other stories.

I may be with one story, but what are those characters about – don’t they mean anything? Shall I just shut my senses? I have often said the real idealist is the cynic. If I am holding a thorn, it means I am darned well acquainted with flowers. Not the bottled essences and paper memories, but the ones that were still seeds and could well be nipped as buds.

“I shall speak of how melancholy and utopia preclude one another. How they fertilize one another... of the revulsion that follows one insight and precedes the next... of superabundance and surfeit. Of stasis in progress. And of myself, for whom melancholy and utopia are heads and tails of the same coin.”

- Gunter Grass


Sunday ka Funda

“The City of New York is like an enormous citadel, a modern Carcassonne. Walking between the magnificent skyscrapers one feels the presence on the fringe of a howling, raging mob, a mob with empty bellies, a mob unshaven and in rags.”

- Henry Miller

Today as New York once again becomes a place for souvenir tributes and the mobs rage has found its bellies full, we find that history is becoming closer, narrower. Cities are much, much more. We live in them and through them. No one talks about a time to stand and stare in cities. Why? There is a time and there is much to look at.

Rewind. New York six decades ago:


Ending on Primetime

He was made into a corpse in a moratorium even before he died. His body went limp and the world saw it. They paid to watch it as the images flickered and the TV dinner or the evening drink in their hands shook a bit.

BBC1’s primetime documentary, 'Inside the Human Body', used Gerald a cancer patient on live television. He died in January, but they showed his last breath moment yesterday. Was it right?

A BBC spokesman defended it:

“Death is an important part of the human experience, and showing Gerald’s death is integral to understanding what happens to the body when it is no longer able to function properly. The BBC does not shy away from difficult subjects like this, but presents them in a sensitive and appropriate manner.”

If that were the motive, then it would have been proper to show his x-rays, the scans, and 3-D images of the affected parts. However sensitively it might have been portrayed, this is not much different from reality television and a bit more devious. In those shows you know someone is putting on an act or exaggerating or whose buttons are being pushed. Here, Gerald’s death was played out for two months. Indeed, the ‘experience’ of death lasted this long as his lung and liver degenerated.

Death is not part of the human experience; it is the end of it for the person concerned.

Gerald was approached last November. he had said then:

“I don't want to die but evidently, unless some miracle happens, I ain't going to be here very long so let's get on with my life as best I can. I'm not frightened. I believe it will not be just like cutting off tape with some scissors. It might be, but either way I just have blind trust I shall not completely disappear.”

Why was he approached? Are news channels in charge of such experiments? How do they choose their guinea pigs? He was probably told that what he was going through would help others. Do the ratings of the programme reveal any education on the part of the viewers? I can imagine sympathy and fear…the stuff you get in soaps and increasingly in news stories. But when there is no cure for last-stage cancer, the emphasis should be on finding out how to improve lives, not to get people to accept the inevitable and do a sightseeing tour of what happens to the body. Especially not the skin and flesh and eyes and smile.

I do not buy into the argument that people are accustomed to seeing gunshots and blown-up brains on TV shows and films. I might add that we see such deaths in real encounters too. The two are examples of fiction and reality. Not the in-between situation of Gerald. I would have understood an interview with him where he spoke about what tormented him, but not this. Certainly not this.

Recently, some guy had put up a line on his Facebook account that he was going to kill his son ‘now’ and he did. He had taken him from his estranged wife for the day. These have become the new YouTube fantasies, where people who would otherwise have lived and died as most do want to become public figures. There is no dearth of takers. In Gerald’s case, we are told that he was 84, as though it lessens the pain in any manner. In the picture as he breathed his last his family is shown weeping.

Many viewers might have done so too. This does not mean it is one big family joined together in sorrow. It means for those who were not close to him an end to a show.

Ask the vexpert - 26

Question: I want to know what semen tastes like. Is it salty, sweet or bitter. Would any of the above determine the quality of the sperms? If so, is there any possibility of deficiency/ill-health in the newborn. Can one prevent this?

Sexpert: Why not taste it if you are so keen to know? Salty, bitter or sweet the sperms merrily swim in the fluid. You cannot predict anything by the flavour.

Me: Sperms are like human beings – full of tantrums, picky, running the rat race and they have a sense of taste. And fun as well. If they are accosted by a strawberry-flavoured condom, be sure that they will think of cream and even Wimbledon by association, if they are well-travelled. The flavours you mention are the ones they live with and are influenced by. Individuals may possess all of these at different times, so a particular semen sample would reflect the mood of the day, a sort of ‘status’ on Facebook. Here is my guide:

Salty: The sperm will be an essential ingredient, a rather sociable being, adding a dash of that something extra. However, the possibility of water retention and high blood pressure may make them a bit slow and giddy headed. But salt goes well with eggs, so while they are together they will be rather well-adjusted.

Sweet: The sperm swimming in such a honeyed environ could well be a bit sticky to deal with. Once he gets rid of the baggage, the sweetness will make him a good after-meal companion. Like dessert. Since the only sweet eggs you get are for Easter, there will be hope of a second coming, a metaphorical need to return to roots. The also look for stability, a few good friends, and will turn out to be nice guys or good girls. 

Bitter: The first thought is to feel sorry, but the bitter medicine will stand these sperms in good stead later in life. They will be toughened and to get rid of the bitterness resort to airing their tongue, which will later transform into a give a damn attitude. They may rarely carry residual bitterness because they managed to rise above it anyway. However, they could suffer from angst and be wary of too much sweetness.

Before going ahead, taste the thing and then decide what kind of babies you want. And don’t slap the butter on. It masks the natural taste and misleads. Besides, grease could end in corrupt sperms. Imagine a people’s movement against you only because you want to do something like ‘Last Tango in Paris’.


Amar Singh and Draupadi in a taped conversation



“Hallow, how have you been?”

“I am fine. Who..”

“It’s me, Draupadi.”

“Are you wearing a saree?”

“Ha, ha, no dice.”

“Come on, tell me honestly. I also play chess with Jaya.”


 “Don’t sound upset.”

 “Why bring Jaya in, munchkin?”

 “I said I play with Vijay…you are doctoring the conversation.”

 “I am just feeling low. We are talking after a long time”

“I’ve been very busy in Kurukshetra, it’s tough.”

“So when are we meeting?”

“When do want to meet baby? I will make time.”

“Okay sweetie.”

“It’s so nice of you to remember me.”

“I tau always remember you.”

“An old man, a fossil.”

“I don’t think age really matters, does it?”

“It matters between the legs.”

“Ha, ha, ha, god.”

“Reminds me, what is happening to your five husbands?”

“Don’t ask. I am fed up with them. It is like coalition politics.”

“But you were rewarded, na?”

“What reward? There is Bhima who has the power of elephants, so what am I to do? Yudhishtira is wise, but lives in the mind. Arjuna has courage and his aim was better with the fish. Nakul and Sahdeva are gorgeous, but they go to the river to look at themselves.”

“You have more than you can handle?”

“Oh, sweetie, you know I can handle a lot. Just that in all this reward-award, I did not get a man who could entertain me.”

“So sad, baby. I swing both ways – do politics and business.”

“That’s why you are so interesting, buttercup. Age has nothing to do with it.”

“Nice of you to say that. Reminds me of that old Hindi song ‘Piya tu, ab tou aaja’.”

“It is a cabaret number.”

“No. It is very deep. It is how with a little nasha anything can happen.”

“Ha, ha…when are we meeting?”

“Soon. Have to sort few problems.”


“That Mulayam…”

“Too soft he was, na?”

“Arre, baba, someone will be listening to this phone call.”



“Why is he so important?”

“Because of Tina.”

“Tina too calls?”

“No because There Is No Alternative.”

“Ha, ha. You are lucky then. I have so many and am yet unhappy.”

“My motto is phool khilein hai gulshan gulshan. Let flowers bloom.”

“Yes, We will stay in touch…”

Phone goes silent. Draupadi’s on hold. Amar Singh returns after a few seconds.

“What happened?”

“Another call, baby.”



“Who Shanti?”

“I want shanti.”


- - -

For those who do not know, politician Amar Singh, who has an uncanny ability to be in the news or stay in the news, had earlier talked about the controversial taped conversations with the lawyer-activist father-son duo Prashant and Shanti Bhushan. Now some of the other tapes of his chats with politicians, business tycoons and film stars have been released. The one that has currently grabbed most attention is with someone who calls herself Bipasha, assuming it to be the actress. I have seen/heard precious little of her, but I would rather go along with her denial. Some of the sentences are from the taped chat. The release of these tapes will now permit others to come out. Amar Singh has not denied it is his voice, although he has mentioned editing. I guess his body parts cannot be edited. To his credit he says he is no saint and answerable only to his wife. For the personal conversation, yes. If it has to do with other deals, then no.

The above light-hearted spoof, I must clarify, is to highlight the nature of ‘crowded’ and unethical politics.The italicised portions are verbatim from the 'original'.

- - -

If you are interested, in the content of the tape here it is: http://youtu.be/c9mJqVSCtbY



Awwrrright, lemme roll mah ‘rrrrrs’ and see if I can do the yankee drawl. Not so tough. Better than getting the brain damaged. Which is possibly what happened to Karen Butler. One minute the Oregonian was in the dentist’s chair for routine surgery and soon enough she was speaking with an Irish accent. Apparently, during the period of sedation she developed the Foreign Accent Syndrome. It is rare and the “change of accent can be triggered by minor strokes, brain damage or even severe migraines”.

The ailment part of it does not sound good, but accents are a peep into so many worlds, and not just geographical. From Peter Sellers mimicking the typical Indian one – although there is nothing like a typical Indian accent; there is only a typical Indian head-bobbing – to the heavy guttural enunciation of Arnold Schwarzenegger, it can be used to analyse behaviour.

Why would an American get an Irish accent and not a Welsh one or from any other part of the US, a country where syllables dance in more varied ways than the stratified red and blue states? Was there some past connection? Was she drinking Guinness before? Did she have an argument about Gerry Adams or had she been reading James Joyce?

The classic battle, of course, is between American and the British English. Indians seem to prefer the American accent. It is easier to chase a word that runs over another than to figure out a starched consonant. I know of someone who studied at Oxford and returned with an American accent! Another thing that beats me is how expats manage to acquire foreign accents so quickly whereas those who come from overseas and live in India do not. I have friends who enjoy our food, our clothes, but they do not have the slightest trace of any Indian accent. Take the example of Sonia Gandhi. Even her Hindi sounds like pasta.

Those of us who are still in Anglo-Saxon mode cannot dream of going to the lav-a-tory, although the Brits ought to be happy that their political party is such an intrinsic part of the American ablutions. I will also not go according to sked-ule; I’d much rather ‘shed’ the mule to get to the schedule.

But these are nits. The Italian, the French, the Spanish have distinct ways of speaking English that make for rather charming pauses in conversation. And I love to recollect a conversation with an Egyptian who I had urged to talk.

“Ookay, thawk.”

“No, you.”

“Woth thu thawk? Yor olwiss farthing and farthing.”

It was time to indeed start farthing…fighting…if only I could stop lifing…laughing.

11 votes for a Pandit: Kashmir's hope?

The winner's on the right, right?
Okay, let us celebrate. In the Jammu and Kashmir elections, Aasha Jee (don’t know what’s with the spelling in the papers) has won a panchayat poll in Wusan, in Baramulla district after defeating her lone rival Sarwa Begum by 11 votes. She is now the Sarpanch of the “Muslim-dominated village”.

Instead of discussing the problems in the village, everyone is on the religion and bonhomie trip. Her family did not ‘flee’, so perhaps a certain Mr. Jagmohan, the governor during the controversial period, might be interested in her statements:

“My victory should send a clear message to migrant Kashmiri Pandits living in exile in other parts of the country that there is no threat to their lives in Kashmir now.”

I would have been happier had she said there is less violence or there is no threat to any Kashmiri, not just Pandits. This sounds like one more totem, although no one is discussing the possibility of rigging this time. A relief. Her victory is being played up with threats to her life, contradicting what she is saying. Indeed, the separatists called for a boycott of polls, but they always do. But we seem to need martyrs all the time. She is asked if she wasn’t afraid.

What is the woman to do? She knows that as a village head she has to speak the language she hears being spoken in talk shows and by those standing behind lecterns at Lal Chowk. So she goes along:

“I am a firm believer in destiny. Life and death is in the hands of God and a person dies only once. If I die for truth and following the right path, I will have no regrets.”

What is the truth? Does anyone know it? It is needs and demands. If her life is under threat, then all those Muslims who voted for her are equally at risk. But that is not the issue. Will the panchayat have enough teeth to deal with day-to-day issues?

The high-standing comes from those standing high. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, speaking from his durbar – Twitter, of course – reportedly yanked out 140 characters from his perch quoting local residents who said:

“We didn't see whether she is a Muslim or non-Muslim. We gave her preference over Muslim candidates.”

Did he hear it right or is he quoting it right? If they did not see her faith, then why give preference to her for her faith? Weird.

His own take:

“Regardless of what the extremist elements of both sides want the world to believe, there is still hope for the Valley and Kashmiriyat.”

Sure. Get off that Smartphone. Eleven votes for a Pandit and a woman after all these years is no indication of hope or Kashmiriyat. Incidentally, when mention Kashmiriyat it amounts to a separate identity. This is what the separatists talk about.


Hillary, Pippa and Peeping Toms

The battle’s between the rear and the mouth. Pippa Middleton is now known only in hindsight, or as hind site. Ridiculous as it may seem, the new Duchess of Cambridge’s sister has an Ass Appreciation Society that boasts over 200,000 members dedicated to her. They will celebrate her ‘day’ after her birthday on September 9. Will she be as “pert” then? Even if such adulation must irk her, subconsciously she will become conscious.

The brain behind the bottom, Jimmy Wevell, said: “I watched the royal wedding and the only thing that was entertaining me was Pippa's ass, I have to thank her for it.”

How can it be entertaining? I shall not get into the objectification argument because all such events objectify someone or the other and if you televise a private occasion live then the occasion is the object. However, it tells us a bit about how hollow lives have become that people need to seek not heroes but parts of them. A nose here, a pair of eyes there. One can understand admiration, even emulation if it is restricted to style and mannerisms, because individuality is effortless and some people need to put in some work to just be themselves.

The hypocrisy is that the $5m for one scene she has been offered in a porn film is considered crass. Vivid Entertainment’s founder Steven Hirsch saw what the rest did, and what the rest did was a snowball effect. Not everyone can notice a butt at the same time and with the same intensity.

This is really about images, in this case the televised walk holding the trail. One might dismiss it as just another fancy. It is. This too is voyeurism.

Just as no one has a problem over the two million hits on Hillary’s photograph in just one location (Flickr) looking in what appeared to be shock – wide eyed and open-mouthed, they said. How did they know whether her mouth was open since her hand covers it? It became a testimonial for the nature of the goings on in the ‘situation room’ at the White House. What meaning were people looking for, what reassurance, what condemnation? She later clarified, “I am somewhat sheepishly concerned that it was my preventing one of my early Spring allergic coughs. So, it may have no great meaning whatsoever.”

Pictures are subject to perception and we do know that what happens in a fraction of a second is not only a fraction of the truth, it is probably not the truth at all. So, if this applies to Hillary – no shock, and no Miss Universe moment of OMG, I won – then all images can be suspect.

Why not a cheep of protest over the images leaping out now – pictorial and verbal? I am not a buffet person who goes around a pre-arranged table consuming what is offered. I like it a la carte, especially if I am told it is available. The chef cannot just say he’s cooked it, describe the recipe, put it on the menu and then tell me it’s not worth it, it won’t suit my palate. The chef says it to everyone. Not everyone has the same palate and taste buds or visits restaurants for the same reasons.

My ‘voyeurism’ – the right to know really – has been vindicated by these two ‘harmless’ images of the ladies. Interestingly, the men are not analysed.

Well, not unless they took ‘herbal Viagra’. How everyone is lapping up all this information. Avena syrup, an extract of wild oats, is marketed as a natural Viagra. There are many natural aphrodisiacs available all over the world. But you say Viagra and the potency of the image leaps out. I read a bit about oats and they add to fructose content and are not all that great for several other reasons. And if the dead man suffered from kidney failure, he was cured with watermelons!

There is no need for aphrodisiacs. People can just get off on such imagery.

During the Bhopal gas leak, we got to see some rather ‘artistic’ award-winning pictures, with slippers carefully arranged near a child’s half-buried body. It was half the truth, which was way more horrific.

The picture of Pippa reduces her to one thing and Hillary’s, the ‘hitters’ hope, stands for something more profound and revealing. Neither is factual but impressionistic. These give vicarious thrills and not the reality.
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An unseen photograph of Princess Diana in her dying moments will be shown in a film at the Cannes festival. As a report says:

The documentary 'Unlawful Killing' is backed by actor Keith Allen and Mohammed Al Fayed, whose son Dodi also died with the Princess of Wales, reports the Daily Mail.

The 90-minute film will include a graphic black and white close-up of the late princess taken moments after the Mercedes carrying the couple crashed in a Paris underpass.

The distressing image, Diana's blonde hair and features clearly visible, has never been publicly seen in the UK.

It will be shown around the world but not in the UK, prompting Allen to say: "Pity, because at a time when the sugar rush of the royal wedding has been sending republicans into a diabetic coma, it could act as a welcome antidote."

Al Fayed is an opportunist, but I found Allen's statement more so. Yet, unless the film is an expose, such a picture will only be exhibitionistic.

Indian courts and forked tongues?

'Law and order' sounds like a curious term because the law does not seem to have any order.

The Supreme Court gets a 7-month itch

On September 30, the Allahabad High Court pronounced its threesome verdict about Babri-Masjid/Ayodhya ‘dispute’. Now, the Supreme Court has decided it is all wrong.

The 50-year legal battle for control of the 2.77 acres of Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid will start from scratch, with the Supreme Court on Monday faulting and staying the Allahabad High Court order dividing the temple-mosque complex among Ram Lalla (the idol of Lord Rama), Hindus and Muslims.
“How can decree for partition be passed as the HC has done? Something very strange has been done by the HC on its own when no party had sought such a relief.”

What was it doing all these months? It is rather strange that both the Hindus and Muslims are satisfied with the stay order. They need not be because one really does not know when our courts start contradicting each other. As regards the farce of the early judgment, we got there before the SC in Ayodhya: Where 1=2

A few points from my piece reiterated here again:

  1. My judiciary has instead taught me a new math. One is equal to two. The 2.77 acre land has been divided into three parts – one for the master, one for the slave and one for the little boy who cries down the lane.
  2.  Has the judiciary defined what exactly it means by the term ‘Hindus’ and ‘Muslims’?...
  3. This secular democratic republic has copped out under the weight of its own mythology and given a verdict where religion IS the state…
  4. This brings us to the third portion – the demolished mosque. It “belongs to Hindus”. Which Hindus? From an ancient era?

The court gets god

Back to the courts. This time to the Ahmedabad High Court. On May 1, Gujarat Day, the Governor and Chief Justice (CJ) of presided over the bhoomi pujan of a new building on the premises. Mumbai Mirror reported that Rajesh Solanki, who heads an Ambedkarite organisation called Council for Social Justice, wrote to the CJ and sent copies to the Union and State Home Secretaries. No one bothered, so he filed a PIL:

At the end of it, Justices Jayant Patel and J C Upadhyay called Solanki’s view ‘pervert’ [sic] and dismissed his petition with an ‘exemplary’ fine. Stating that the puja was for the successful completion of the proposed building, and for the larger interests of all those who would benefit from its construction, the order defined secularism as based on the principles of ‘Vasudev Kutumbakam’ (the world is one family). Differentiating between religion and ‘dharma’, the judges said dharma meant ‘sarva bhavantu sukinah’ (may everyone be happy).

Solanki took his plea to the Supreme Court, which dismissed it. He is persistent and says if it is about all religions then why are their rituals not included.

The CJ and Guv seeking 'happiness': captured by Solanki in a TV shot

Does the court have any right to call a person’s views perverted when he has said nothing of the nature? The bench should be sued for defamation.

I would like to ask a few further queries:

If constructed buildings benefit people, then what about those that are demolished or crash due to natural disasters? Since the Indian Constitution rules in law, what place do holy scriptures have? This ‘we are family’ cheesiness is best left for popcorn munching films or in social interactions. I find the distinction between religion and dharma rather facile. All religions in some form or the other wish everyone to be happy even if they kill each other in the name of some other happiness. Dharma is embedded within a certain religious idea and it is fair enough, but do not try and make a distinction to sneak out of a sense of responsibility.

I’d say this not only about Gujarat but any state in a non-theocratic country. You have absolutely no business to use government space to flash any kind of religious rituals. The true benefit of a new building would be better facilities for those who have to spend hours waiting for hearings and speedy justice delivered in a non-partisan fashion. This is what the courts are about. Please leave “I’m happy, you’re happy” to individuals.

The TOI pushes it

Is it proper for the Times of India to give its 'Times View' together with a report, as it has done in today’s edition in a piece on the Supreme Court and honour killings? Why are reports being editorialised? Although there is always a bias, this is just not done. There can be a separate editorial or opinion pieces, even if by the editor, and they already have a ‘pro’ and ‘con’ section. But to use a box item with a report goes against all journalistic ethics. There have been a few occasions when the Times View appeared on the front page, which is akin to shouting from the soap box.

What could be the compulsions behind pushing such ‘views’? Do they believe the readers are idiots and won’t know how to formulate their own opinions, if any, on the reports? Or is it insecurity? Or fake bravado – ‘See, we are standing up for the issue’? Spare us. We know what to look for where. And if you must show us how serious you are, then ask the hard questions and push the hard stories.


Sunday ka Funda

“If somebody thinks they're a hedgehog, presumably you just give 'em a mirror and a few pictures of hedgehogs and tell them to sort it out for themselves.”

- Douglas Adams


Gold Retrievers

I dislike gold, yellow gold. A touch would do, but when I see ornaments glittering as though they own the sun I am revolted. I love the good things and do own a few. It is just that pure yellow gold looks crass, like rags being burned to start a fire.

Indians love not only to wear a lot of it but also to collect it as investment. So, today, on the occasion of Akshaya Tritiya, it was not the spirit of giving and rejuvenation embodied in its moorings that mattered but the bullion market and jewellery stores.

I admit I have some fond memories of such shops. When I was a child, it was always made-to-order jewellery and weddings in the family meant visits to the stores, selecting designs, arguing with the man about ‘making charges’. These were fun expeditions mainly because of the occasion and the post-shopping food. Stories about gold dust on the roads of Zaveri bazaar being gathered by urchins were related.

I had no gold except for a small pair of ear-rings to ensure that the pierced ears did not get blocked. There were times when such ear-rings got robbed and one was warned about mesmerisers. “Don’t talk to any stranger in the bus,” I was warned. I did not know that thieves chatted with you before doing away with the loot, and loot it hardly was.

Later, the face of the shops changed. The guards appraised you and the doors seemed to be less inviting. Plush carpets on the floor, nicely-upholstered chairs you sat in and were catered to by tie-wearing salesmen and women who talked about ‘Italian style’ and “Greco-Roman finish”. I went to one and in an attempt at getting chatty one of them complimented me on my bracelet. She said, “That is soooo beeeoootifool, looks like Cart-here (Cartier). We make exact copies.” I told her it was fake, bought off the street. I lied, but it stopped her Cart-here rant. Incidentally, the swish set often filch brochures from designer boutiques abroad and get the local jeweller to make replicas.

Although we started making readymade purchases, we still went to the old store. The son was now in charge and he figured out soon enough that I wanted everything to look minimalistic. It is wonderful that white gold has caught the fancy of a few, although I still prefer silver and since I do not attend most celebratory events I like my wood, shell and bead trinkets.
He also told me about ‘hollow gold’ where the patterns are intricate, it looks dressy, but is filled with some other lighter metal. It had little value but gold is about making an impression and there are many takers for such deceit, especially those wanting to give presents.

I don’t know if on an auspicious occasion people would want to indulge in this sort of betrayal. About 50,000 couples will get married today because it is believed that you don’t need any other good stars shining upon you on this day, a problem that Indians have about making sure that everything is aligned in the skies for what happens down below. It is also supposed to be a great day to start any venture. Everyone wants to prosper, but is that not about how we achieve things or view success itself? How would buying a new car bring prosperity when fuel prices rise each day and the roads are bumpy? You start a business but you have to work hard to keep it going.

I understand the need to hold on to something, even if it is yellow coins, but they do not take you anywhere. You need feet for that. And maybe glass slippers!


Quote uncoat

One can never step into Narayana Murthy’s shoes. I am just stepping into a position called chair of the board

- K. V. Kamath, new CEO, Infosys

For all the humility and ‘aal izz well’ formula of Infosys, the fact remains that Narayana Murthy made the decisions. He was the throne of Egalitaria. He may now be ruminating about “siesta and sitcoms”, but there won’t be any let-up. The hierarchy here might not have been vertical, but it is most definitely horizontal with all the speed-breakers and zebra crossings in place.

Okay, I don’t know anything about Mohandas Pai and whether he quit because he wanted to be CEO, but was the company not started by seven broke blokes? Where are they in this successful enterprise? Does the world gasp for any of them and the way Infosys played the global game according to global standards? Truth is it became a one-man enterprise with one man being nice about the rest. It is a private company and people can do what they want with it, but it most certainly was not about real inclusiveness.

What Mr. Kamath says is not only about stepping into shoes; the chair itself is Narayana Murthy.


News meeows

Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani asked people in Kashmir to stop pelting stones at cops and security personnel:

“Religious debate about the relevance of stone pelting notwithstanding, we have realized stone pelting yielded no contribution to the freedom struggle last year. Instead, we lost 118 youth in last year's unrest.”

Religious debate? Is he out of his mind? The stone pelters were doing it because of disaffection and not because of any religious reason. There is nothing like a freedom struggle of last year that is any different from the years before – the methods alter a bit.

It is Geelani who was riding the wave and not the other way round. Geelani will never win an election in Kashmir; that is not to say those who win elections are right or in their right mind. The Hurriyat leader is trying to take over the real movement, but then what’s new? He is not the only one.

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A person has a right to her/his private beliefs. So, it was surprising to read these views in a TOI interview of India’s former chief justice, P. N.Bhagwati, a devotee of Satya Sai Baba for 42 years, regarding his devotion intruding into his work:

As a professional, each time I would sit down to write a judgment at 5 ‘o'clock in the morning, I was only writing what my god dictated. Bhagwan held my hand as I put pen to paper. Everything that I have achieved in respect of the law, and people say I have achieved a lot, is owing to the guidance and inspiration of Sathya Sai Baba. There is no doubt on that score.

And this from someone who dealt with legal matters and is supposed to be aware -

On alleged offences committed by Sai Baba that were never investigated:

What is the point of investigation? (Agitated) Bhagwan is divinity personified, he radiates joy; millions worship him. He is a teacher of mankind.

On ashrams inmates killed when there was an attempt on Baba’s life:

I am not aware of this. I live in Delhi, so I have no knowledge.

On succession:

…there is no row over succession. How can anybody succeed God? Who succeeded Lord Krishna?

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I really want to steer clear of naked women and women with veils. They are two extreme positions, but after all the noise would we not like to know about non-Islamic countries?

Tourists in Barcelona who wander off the beach onto the streets in just their swimming costumes — or even less — will now face stiff fines. The city hall voted to ban “nudity or virtual nudity in public places” and limit swimming costumes to swimming pools, beaches, adjacent roads and beach walks. Nudists who stray off their designated areas of the beach will be subject to fines of 300 to 500 euros.

From another report:

"We want to make people understand that it's an attitude that we don't like, that it's not banned or punishable but that it's something we don't think is civil," a spokeswoman for the city hall said.

Municipal authorities in the seaside Spanish city have already printed posters showing a couple in swimming costumes with a red line across it, along with another couple dressed normally but without the red line.

Sometime ago it was Sri Lanka:

Nimal Rubasinghe, secretary of the Cultural Affairs Ministry, said the government had received representations calling for a ban on wearing revealing clothing in public. “There have been complaints from various quarters about miniskirts, but we are only considering them and no final decision has been taken.”

“There are individuals and groups representing religious and cultural interests, who have written to us raising concerns that this kind of (mini) dress would corrupt our culture,” Minister T B Ekanayake was quoted as saying by the Lakbima news daily.

President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government had ordered the removal of billboards featuring scantily-clad women.

Second look: Last year, US singer Akon was denied a visa to perform in Sri Lanka after Buddhist monks took offence at one of his videos that featured women in bikinis dancing around a pool in front of a Buddha statue. The Sri Lankan army has committed atrocities against Tamil women.

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I used to like Kiran Bedi. She still makes sense, but what is she doing on TV hosting Aap ki Kachehri (People’s Court) where melodramatic performers enact some flimsy tangled issue and she flashes papers and declares justice? It demeans her position and gives the perception of a kangaroo court. But then, she is part of the Hazare movement and it goes with such a belief.

Interestingly, she also endorses a detergent to convey a clean image!

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Talking of ads, the senior Bachchan couple are selling diamonds. It is nice to see an older couple in such an ad, but Amitabh brings this heavy diamond necklace and is given a run-down by Jaya: “What would you know about diamonds?” He mutters to the camera, “Women!” Then he goes on a discovery tour and brings the necklace with the info and she is impressed. Just when he is exulting over it, she asks, with a sulk, “And bangles?” And he mutters even more silently, “Women…”

We really cannot break ground, can we? Typical avaricious woman, nagging woman. Incidentally, the neck piece is not worth all that effort. It looks like greed.