Sunday ka Funda
— Simone Weil
I disagree. If attachment is only about illusions, then it pays the price for disillusionment too. We get attached to what is real, even if our emotions might be fabricating illusions beyond the reality. And therein lies the beauty.
And, indeed, one may get attached to what is superficial. That is attachment to the illusion. It does not even seek a reality.
One of the first lines of this song use word trickery to question the mind:
"O nirmohi, moh na jaane, jis ka moh kare..."
(Oh detached one, you fathom not the attraction of that which you are drawn to...)
Film - Chitralekha
Music - Roshan
Lyrics - Sahir Ludhianvi
Singer - Mohamed Rafi
Actor - Pradeep Kumar
Food for politics: a restaurant and a hug
Does anyone remember those Irani restaurants in Mumbai that had eccentric notes put up — no combing hair near wash basin, no loud chatter, and no talking politics?
The first seemed the prerogative of the owners, the second as a consideration for other diners, and the last must have been the result of some bad experience in the past. Or, perhaps the owners truly believed that eating and politics together are bad for the stomach. It is also possible that they had strong opinions and did not relish the idea that some contrary views would be expressed, leading to a 'rebel clientele'.
Likewise, when I eat out and check the bill, the last thing I want is the owner to give me political bhaashan, while cribbing about taxes. Even the grocery stores did not do so due to the LBT taxes. They went on strike. The humble vegetable vendor has no recourse and has to put up with haggling.
On Tuesday, a small eatery made news for its bill that had these words: “As per UPA govt eating money (2G, coal, CWG scam) is a necessity and eating food in AC restaurants is a luxury.”
Aditi Restaurant in Parel was forced to shut down by Congress workers for this "defamation". There is anger and there is mirth.
And with these two emotions, there seems to be no room for people breathing heavy about freedom of expression to ask:
• Who made this bill public and why?
• What are the political affiliations, if any, of the owners?
• Do customers have a right to protest against political and social messages at a place where they pay for the services?
• The bill has no tax visible. How much is it fattening the cost of the meal under the guise of taxation and keeping a bit for itself?
• Are customers of various products and services, who have chosen to pay up the extra amount, willing to put up with such a rant?
What made Narendra Modi jump in? Why was he concerned about a little eating place when he has shown scant regard for worse?
The desperation of the BJP is such that it raised the matter in the state assembly: "This is shocking. The ruling party does not want to give the people right to protest against their scams. Why is the Congress so intolerant?"
The Congress is intolerant. These scams are real. The ministers have been arrested and spent time in jail; some got away. We have courts, even if we may not agree with the verdicts. We have the Right to Information.
The restaurant owner has every right to protest against scams when there are protest rallies or through other means. He has no business sneaking in political messages only to complain about taxes. In fact, he has no business passing on his tax worries on the customer, unless a customer specifically asks him about an inflated bill.
A report said:
"The Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR) sources said that Aditi restaurant mostly caters to poor people coming to hospitals in the area, so there were complaints about high billing due to taxes. The owner, they said, had given expression to those complaints through a footnote in the bill."
This is lame. It is an aircondioned restaurant and the tax is specifically for AC ones. How many poor people visit such places? Would those coming from hospitals be bothered? And why should anyone? They do not know in advance what to expect and only later does the message hit home while paying.
What if instead of Congress goons a visitor had protested? Some can get rowdy. Would it have made news? Perhaps. If the owner had the instinct to smell an opportunity. On the day it was shut (it reopened on Tuesday) people had already been passing around the menu, planning home delivery and later it made it to their wish list.
The episode shows that anybody can print bills with a message and get instant popularity and martyrdom.
One report in The Times of India sourced its news story from social networks. It was painful to read this:
"Some took up the communal angle. It wouldn’t have been attacked had it been an Italian or a 'Muslim-owned restaurant serving ‘secular’ food', said marketing manager Jayesh Dewana, adding that the reason it had been shut was that it served 'Hindu, pure vegetarian' fare."
Unfortunate as it is, I am sure this is not an isolated opinion. What is secular food? How many vegetarian places have been shut down? Does a restaurant have a religion?
These are people fighting for freedom? Look at how chained they are. They are the ones who run down 'Muslim' eateries for their choice of fare and assume it is some Arabisation plot. These are the ignorant who do not know that in this same city such places were destroyed in the riots of 1993.
So, let us ask some questions:
1. Would Shri Narendra Modi's men permit Muslim-owned restaurants in Gujarat to have a message against 2002 riots on the bill?
2. Would an eatery in Chhatisgarh get away by announcing it sympathises with Maoist ideology?
3. Would a Sikh at his dhabha be able to seek the support of customers to petition against Sajjan Kumar?
You know the answer.
And despite my empathy for all the above, I would not like it. I am going to eat, not be saddled with problems, even though I am more than aware of them.
This would amount to misusing a client's space and proselytising.
Don't 'charge' me for it. Hand me a pamphlet separately, if you must.
This overarching culture of protest that is gaining currency to "reach millions" through short sentences is hot air. Those protesting against the shutdown of a restaurant are usually silent when people are rounded up on 'suspicion' for crimes they never commit. It is so easy to take up the cause of safe underdogs.
The holy hug
On Sunday, at an Iftaar organised by MLA Baba Siddiqui a rather normal greeting became an 'epic moment'. Two Bollywood biggies, reportedly not the best of friends, embraced. Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan made it to the front page of some mainstream newspapers.
I watched one such barf-inducing clip on TV two days later. This nonsense was still being talked about. Realising how important this was, the host called out to the photographers to capture it.
My views on political iftaars are not new. I abhor them. Worse, this one was at a five-star hotel. What sort of austerity is it? Then to make it into a photo-op. I was shocked when the host, obviously on asked how he felt, said he had nothing to do with it. It was all Allah, he was merely a means. I would like to know why, in that case, Allah did not intervene when they had that big fight.
Leave religion alone.
© Farzana Versey
Sunday ka Funda
These simple words by Bollywood actress Manisha Koirala, who is recuperating after successful treatment for ovarian cancer, really struck me.
Why do we always expect people to be fighters when they are down not due to their own failings, but because circumstances have just turned against them?
There may be days when we have all wanted to give up. We don't even know if there is something to fight against. That we do not keel under the pressure or come out smiling is because we remember the times when we asked, "How can I go on?"
Desi Babu, English Maimed
India's literacy is not something to be proud of, so questions about language are less about parochialism than about power.
The BJP party president Rajnath Singh told ABP TV:
"English language has caused a great lot of loss to India. We have started forgetting our religion and culture these days. There are only 14,000 people left in this country speaking in Sanskrit. Knowledge acquired out of English is not harmful but the anglicization penetrated into youths in this country is dangerous."
What religion is he talking about? Do believers forget a religion only because they speak a language that the scriptures were not originally written in? Nobody quite knows what the good angels, apostles and sages conveyed via unknown means that today form holy texts. These are available in translation in regions where they are not even the prominent faith. It is part proselytisation, part academic interest.
In India, many religions are practised and many more languages spoken. Is the BJP, under the guise of lamenting for a language, merely pushing a faith agenda?
Then, we come to the issue of culture. Culture is lived experiences as much as what society might deem to be 'cultural aspects', in terms of heritage and creation of indigenous ethnic art and mores. People imbibe these and add to them along the way. There is no single culture that can be forgotten or remembered. What we broadly term "Bharatiya sanskriti" (Indian culture) is an amorphous entity made up of all of these.
I do agree with Rajnath Singh, though, on the point about anglicisation. It is not dangerous — we do know of the dangers from non-English speaking Indians only too well — but it is limiting. However, bringing in Sanskrit here is tactical. To revive a dying language is one thing, to use is as a political tool quite another. It is part of the reclaiming our heritage agenda that is always kept on the burner. This is dangerous.
Of the 14,000 people who speak in Sanskrit, how many consider it their primary language? Do they use it in personal and professional interaction, assuming their profession is not propagation or teaching of Sanskrit?
Should the BJP not helm this movement and promote Sanskrit among its target audience? Give electoral tickets only to those who have some knowledge of Sanskrit. Start a poster campaign in Sanskrit. Use it to at least begin their meetings.
We know this is only to rake up some cultural issue as a preemptive election strike. Oddly enough, it will not alienate the acolytes, who know no language other than English, because they are being sold a dream, and dreams come cheap.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had gone on to say the situation under Congress was worse than British rule (my full post here):
"Today, there is an insistence on education in a foreign language (English), instead of education in the mother tongue. As a result, the importance of the foreign language has increased to a large extent in the country.”
English is as much a foreign language as Hindi is to someone from a region not much exposed to it, as South Indian languages are to those in the North, the East...we can go on about these languages that people speak today and not in the past.
Having said this, I do believe that we are losing pride in our languages and look upon English speakers as superior. There is a neat divide between the English speakers and those who use regional languages, and this is manifested in almost every aspect. The hierarchy should bother us, and I say this even as I write in English and am more comfortable in it than with other languages that I do know and some I try to understand.
However, in diplomatic discourse I think a unifying language helps a country like India. Japan and China are supremely confident and get away with it. We might not, and unfortunately when we use an international platform with Hindi it is tom-tommed as something special, instead of the most natural thing.
This reminds me of The Times of India’s Teach India campaign I had mentioned earlier. Look at their promo. Why would someone ask “Englis aata hai kya?” and make a kid feel awkward? Does that person not know how to pronounce ‘English’?
I also don’t understand how a boy at the edge of opportunity will look for open spaces in walls. If he is at the edge, it would be a mountain or a ledge. Where do walls come in?
And all this is to get a working knowledge of English to open up “many little career opportunities” and help in the “surge forward”.
That’s really kind. No big opportunities for the little people, and are we not surprised that this would be a surge forward and not backward?
In a debate, there is always room for some lighthearted moments. Madhu Kishwar had written in a piece: “The brown sahibs of today have made English their language for love making, talking to their infants and even scolding their pet dogs!"
I had no idea that infants could understand languages they were cooed in. And would dogs get a superiority complex only because they were scolded in English? Would an ordinary mongrel acquire a pedigreed halo if told to shut up, instead of "shanti"?
What language does love-making have? It is touch. It is visual and olfactory as well. Does moaning have a language? Yes, some words are used, but would it alter the intimacy if they were whispered in another language from the one the two people are at ease with?
For those who do wish to revive Sanskrit, I offer you two words that might help: 'siddha', achieving, could be used for climax; if the experience is overwhelming, you would be in a state of 'samadhi'.
Try it and tell me how it was!
© Farzana Versey
A Mirage called Malala
by Farzana Versey, CounterPunch, July 15
Had Edward Snowden exposed the dirt of the Taliban, he would have been standing behind the lectern in New York at the UN hall on Friday, July 12.
- A young man is hounded by the government of his country for exposing its sly mechanism, of its covert war against the whole world, not to speak of its own citizens. He waits at an airport in Russia that had fought a war against Afghanistan, which was backed by the CIA.
- A teenager’s birthday was officially declared Malala Day by the United Nations. She addressed a well-heeled gathering in the United States that was one of the two countries to oppose the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; the other was Somalia.
|Malala at the UN - Pic The Guardian|
"Until terrorism is over, she will continue to have security until we feel she is OK. You never know the circumstances, what will happen. The Taliban might be zero tomorrow. Still [while] we think or successive government feels she needs security, it is of no issue, to be honest, because she has become the icon of Pakistan, she has stood against terrorists and Taliban and she has become an icon for the education of young girls.”
|Students in Mingora (Pic: Pak Magazine)|
It would have been politically incorrect for her to add that her sponsors and their allies not only kill civilians in the regions they occupy, but also employ child soldiers. In an earlier piece, I had raised these points: Is this courage or just canny marketing by consumerist consciences? Do we even pause to think about the consequences of creating or supporting such vulnerable ‘revolutionaries’? …Just think of the kids the US forces fought in Iraq and then took them captive to Abu Ghraib. Think about them in the Maoist Army in Nepal, as human shields in India’s Naxal groups, of them in Israel, of stone-pelting Palestinians now holding guns. These are representatives of their countries, not fringe groups.
“I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists. I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there was a gun in my hand and he was standing in front of me, I would not shoot him. This is the compassion I have learned from Mohamed, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. This is the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa.”
© Farzana Versey
Do read Our Guns, Children's Shoulders
Sunday ka Funda
His attendant presented the card of the governor, which read: Kitagaki, Governor of Kyoto.
"I have no business with such a fellow," said Keichu to his attendant. "Tell him to get out of here."The attendant carried the card back with apologies. "That was my error," said the governor, and with a pencil he scratched out the words Governor of Kyoto. "Ask your teacher again."
"Oh, is that Kitagaki?" exclaimed the teacher when he saw the card. "I want to see that fellow."
(Calling Card - Zen stories)
A newspaper mortified?
I understand that sometimes newspapers, in a rush to be the first, might not do a thorough job of reporting. In times of crises and calamities when giving out news is more important, a reader or viewer could take this with a pinch of salt. Often, the sources the media consider above-board could just be feeding them half or misleading news.
Among the most talked-about aspect of the Uttarakhand floods was “Modi in Rambo act, saves 15,000.” It was so obviously exaggerated that all it deserved was sarcasm. Not debate.
But that does not happen. People moved on to this sideshow. It was opportunistic for both sides – the BJP and its opponents.
Now, after three weeks we get a clarification on Page 7 of The Times of India:
It seems obvious that someone enjoyed the piggyride while it was in the news and later decided to do damage control. However, why did the newspaper not issue a straightforward correction instead of this dramatic and obsequious one? The “largest-selling newspaper” regrets inconvenience caused to the individuals concerned, but not to the readers who were misled. Worse, it ends with, “We are mortified by the controversy surrounding the report.”
Why would such a huge organisation be mortified, unless it is threatened? Why did this fear of controversy set in only now? Will the media group’s channel Times Now, whose “most-watched” news show has the anchor demanding of his panellists, “The nation wants to know”, conduct a debate on this? This time the nation is concerned as to why and how its favourite newspaper is mortified.
We’d be happy to help in this hour of distress.
PS: I have deliberately not cropped out the 40% off from an ad above in the image...after all, it is a matter of discounted news and other rebates!
Bodh Gaya attacks and political 'terrorism'
The Dalai Lama laughed a short laugh. Then, he said such small small things happen...few individuals are involved.
He was asked to respond to the bomb blasts in Bodh Gaya, Bihar. On Sunday evening I tuned in to Headlines Today. It had been over 12 hours since the attack in the early hours. The reporters had reached there. The verdict, however, was out way before that. We'll get there.
First, let me tell you about this amazing reportage. A Nepali woman and a Bhutanese man were being interviewed, and the questions contained the answer. Essentially, that this was bound to happen, there was not enough security. There was such a barrage of implication in the queries, with the emphasis on "the seat of Buddhism...of peace and tolerance", that the woman was forced to say, "What harm has the Buddha done?"
And later it was the Dalai Lama who laughed. He is the head of the Buddhist community the world over. But, apparently, our news anchors and TV reporters are the holinesses.
Politicians are playing politics, resulting in terror tourism, and we are not talking about the recce by the culprits. Most senior leaders have visited or are planning a visit, mainly to score points.
In his enthusiasm to not jump the gun over the Indian Mujahideen, one of the main suspect organisations, the Congress Party's Digvijaya Singh got tangled in a web:
"Amit Shah (BJP general secretary) promises a grand temple at Ayodhya. Modi addresses Bihar BJP workers and asks them to teach Nitish (Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar) a lesson. Next day bomb blasts at Mahabodhi Temple at Bodhgaya. Is there a connect? I don't know."
If he does not know, then he ought to keep quiet. Instead, he gave a lecture to the opposition:
"BJP also gave statements linking the persecution of Muslims in Myanmar to this incident. They are clearly targeting Muslims and I want to say to all that for god's sake, let the NIA complete the investigation."
He was repeating what has been implied and stated by the usual suspects. Even if the Myanmar angle turns out to be true, on what basis should this permit "targeting Muslims"?
There is absolutely no reason and basis for any such acts to be committed anywhere in the world. Terrorists, of extremist organisations as well as establishment machinery, have no business to target innocent people. However, 'civil society' has taken on the mantle of mimicking the attitude it abhors by using language as a tool. The hate speech and insinuations, quoting from ancient religious texts, seems to have become a lucrative pastime. Therefore, it is not surprising that the verdict was pronounced.
It gets more people to salivate than discussing the security lapses. If agencies send warnings, why are necessary precautions not taken? Are most such warnings red herrings or the result of paranoia?
To specifically talk about the Maha Bodhi temple, the statue of Buddha was not damaged. The terrorists used low intensity bombs during a time when few people would be there. Two monks were unfortunately injured, one seriously.
What message were the terrorists trying to convey, given that they are usually clear about their intent?
Sushma Swaraj said, "India is the land of the Buddha. We will not allow a Bamiyan here."
It is a good sentiment. One hopes that at least in contemporary times Buddhists, and not only Tibetans, are in safe hands. It wasn't so in the past, the same past that the Hindutva parties love. This quote might put things in perspective:
“According to the historian S. R. Goyal, the decline of Buddhism in India is the result of the hostility of the Hindu priestly caste of Brahmins. The Hindu Saivite ruler Shashanka of Gauda (590–626) destroyed the Buddhist images and Bo Tree, under which Siddhartha Gautama is said to have achieved enlightenment. Pusyamitra Sunga (185 BC to 151 BC) was hostile to Buddhism, he burned Sūtras, Buddhists shrines and massacred monks. With the surge of Hindu philosophers like Adi Shankara, along with Madhvacharya and Ramanuja, three leaders in the revival of Hindu philosophy, Buddhism started to fade out rapidly from the landscape of India."
And it isn't all quite a nice scene that it is made out to be. This is beyond politics and recent. Buddhist monks have been demanding control over the Bodh Gaya shrine against the Hindu majority in the managing committee as per the Bodhgaya Temple Act, 1949. They had to take the matter up with the Supreme Court.
More from this report:
"The Gaya district magistrate is the ex officio chairman of the panel while other members are nominated. What has been deemed ultra vires of the Constitution by many legal experts is a provision that empowers the state government to nominate a Hindu as the chairman of the committee if the DM of Gaya is not a Hindu."
There is a Shiva temple within the precinct, which seemed to give it some legitimacy. How it got there is a different matter.
The report further states:
"Buddhist monks have gone on indefinite hunger strikes demanding that the community be handed over control of the shrine. NCM had passed a unanimous resolution in 2005 that the Act needs to be amended. However the demand for full control has never cut much ice."
So much for concern for Buddhists. Meanwhile, the latest news is that no one has been arrested. Indeed, this ought to be news too. In October, Delhi Police had handed over information. On July 3, a DIG reviewed security with local administration. It is impossible for any security to be foolproof, but if 10 of 13 bombs go off within a small radius, should not the government be more transparent?
Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said:
"Arresting anyone in a hurry is not right. Investigations should go into detail and catch hold of the real culprits...There are so many complex problems. Infiltration from other countries is there, Naxalites are there, local communal disturbances are there. We have to see all angles."
He was asked about the Naxal angle. The infiltration problem is a concern always. As regards communal disturbances, I hope he and everyone realises there are more than two communities in India.
And in what has become a mandatory requirement, Muslim organisations in Mumbai have condemned the blasts. I dislike this defensiveness. One day, though, peace-loving Buddhists too will speak out against the killing of Muslims in Myanmar. They constitute five per cent of the population.
Until then, politicians can continue to run our lives and protect places of worship. They are the new gods feeding hate.
"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned." (The Buddha)
© Farzana Versey
An earlier post on the stony reaction to a Buddhist nun's rape
Tooth vs. Dentures: The Modi Bite
How do you deal with the hype? The answer is simple: You don't. It is already reaching saturation point. Having 7,200 "e-soldiers" is a sign of desperation. The Gujarat chief minister is looking for someone to head the minority cell, "but the BJP is finding it difficult to find a recognizable face to head its minority front in Gujarat". His soldiers who think the 2002 riots are old and it is time to 'move on' will never have the courage to come forth with a plea that Muslims need not vote for the party. If they did, then one might give them some credit for at least lack of hypocrisy regarding their persistent whining against vote bank politics.
I am often surprised at the naïveté of those who believe that the cyber world can win elections. This report in The Times of India gives us a few details about how it works:
"Try criticizing Gujarat CM Narendra Modi on social media and you will be ambushed by a cyber army. Praise him, and there will be hundreds joining the chorus...The sharp quips against Modi-baiters on the net are the coordinated effort of these youth, who use specialized software to add friends and ‘Likes’ to Modi pages on Facebook and Twitter and also send mass messages."
Getting urban youth is not difficult. Modi should give credit for this to Anna Hazare. His crusade brought out the Nike generation to embrace the Gandhi topi in the day and drown their new-found angst later in the usual haunts. Nothing has changed, except a new-found purpose that I have already talked about in the I Mislead India post.
So, he had a ready 'army', and it was not difficult to brainwash them into believing that all would be right and what was wrong was not the fault of Modi, but of those who were out to demonise him. The youth who were shouting for justice against rapists and scamsters have been silenced into believing in legalistic justice where foot soldiers take the blame and you need 'concrete evidence' to pin down leaders The dissent that they proudly claimed has been bought with a fake ideology. The recent history they are asked to forget is dragging them to the ancient past of Mughal conquerors. Irony cringes.
The group is incestuous and sharp, though. They will target novices with no known baggage. Try a red herring (RH) with them. They will not bite. The fear factor they use against others is really their own fear of any strong opinion. Watch them on TV shows and the moment they face an argument, the response is, "Look at you, you are getting nervous", even as they muffle their own nervous laughter. They cannot handle anyone who has a contrary viewpoint.
I have not come across a single person who is a Modi or a BJP person being critical of the way of functioning (no, L.K.Advani does not count!). If they cannot question anything, then how will they critique others? How different is it from the dynasty they abhor? It was this Narendra Modi Army that took out a morcha to Mr. Advani's house after he spoke out. Forget cohesiveness, it reveals bad taste and insecurity.
The electronic media has given way too much attention to these "Internet warriors". The unfortunate negative fallout is a response by the Congress camp of mimicking it. It ought not to be difficult. Prop up one individual, discuss achievements, rubbish the opposition. However, they have not been as successful. If the relatively secular forces (not just the Congress) have any sense they'd see that as a compliment,
They have a wider variety of supporters, not all creditable, but yet. They are not in denial mode about any of the riots during Congress rule. They are not in a desperate hurry to accept the words of disgruntled NDA allies, even if some politicians do. A Digvijaya Singh, a Sanjay Jha, an Abhishek Singhvi are often pulled up by their own even as they remain anti-BJP. One does not ever hear about any Modi bhakt criticising their spokespersons for speaking out of turn and, by Jove, they do.
In the superficial oneupmanship, where it is clear that the Modi army outnumbers, it is the loss of sensible debate.
Contrary to what the social media believes about the social media clout of the man, a war cannot be fought with invisible weapons and hydra- headed monsters with multiple accounts. This is an insult to the vast population of India. And it ought to be a lesson for every political party.
Ruling a country is not a hashtag you can latch on to. You can fool a few lakh followers — many talking to themselves — but not the millions.
© Farzana Versey
Also read: Advani and Modi:No Exit
Image source not available