29 Apr 2015
7 Nov 2014
13 Jul 2014
Meanwhile, amid 7-1s, Messis, Neymars, discarded beer mugs, sleepless nights and a few bored souls, the ball never stopped and their feet never rested here. Another world cup will end; the ball will roll.
Whoever wins, the victory belongs to the world!
16 Mar 2012
It was his first visit to India and I was taking him on a drive. As we crossed the town, radio signal went low. He admitted his liking for Indian film music, so I played the disc instead of switching off the audio. When I drive alone, I always play Ilaiyaraja, so the disc played his numbers from 80s and 90s. As he listened to one after another, he followed the music keenly. I grew up listening to Ilaiyaraja, so I was enjoying it again.
After Enno Ratrulostayi from Dharma Kshetram, Oka Brindavanam from Gharshana (Mani Ratnam's), O Priya Priya from Gitanjali, it started playing Ekanta Vela from Anveshana. Anyone who has watched this Vamsy's chilling thriller in Devi 70mm will never forget it. A matchless composition, it blends the sensuous tone with that of subterfuge. He couldn't follow the lyrics, for he doesn't know that language. But he quite liked the tune and of course the interludes. When it ended, he asked me to play it again. He seemed to have cracked something about the song and wanted to be sure. Listening to it a second time helped his judgment. Soon after the number ended the second time, he asked me, "I get the feeling that this song was shot in a forest. Am I right?" The question stunned me.
"Wow, of course!" I said. It was never possible for me to listen to the song and not immediately associate how and where it was shot. But that someone could crack it while listening to it for the first time made me again remember how much a genius Ilaiyaraja is. What makes it even more surprising is that unlike other numbers in the flick, this song doesn't have any obvious sounds native to a forest.
After a couple of days when he was ready to leave, I gave him the disc of Nothing But Wind and the background scores of Gitanjali. "By Ilaiyaraja. Hope you like it", I said.
"I think I surely will", he replied, looking at the play list.
Here's to Ilaiyaraja, the king!
5 Mar 2012
Barely an hour after I had reached an acquaintance's and had a cup of tea, I heard a knock on the door. He rushed and opened. They greeted him warmly, and one could see they knew him quite well. When Aunt entered the room and greeted them, her manner and tone suggested she too was familiar with them. The group, I realised soon, was out for a political campaign. And this chap, in his mid-twenties, has impressive people skills and a strong local network. They wanted him to join.
"Leave me alone today. I have a guest and I promised to take him around our town", he offered an excuse.
The group insisted he must join. He had to agree. Aunt smiled and said, "He is always on the roads!" I smiled.
As he prepared to leave, he told me he will return in a couple of hours and then take me out. It meant I could just laze around for some time, so I definitely had no problem. Curiously I asked about the motives of the group. He briefed me that they are, among other things, committed to support Team Anna's campaign againt corruption.
"Great", I said. "Do you believe in Anna's campaign?"
Tucking in his shirt, he replied with a smile, "I don't have any stand on that. But then who cares? I campaign for them, and they pay me 100 bucks per day".
"Yeah, bro!" he combed his hair. "Watch some TV. I will soon be back. Ciao!"
30 Jan 2012
The anthology, titled Only Men Please, is out in print, and is up on Flipkart. If author's copy means anything, I have a few to share. The launch event has been rescheduled for March 31. The Asian anthology, titled Mr Cheng's Silver Coffepot, will be available shortly, on Amazon.
31 Dec 2011
Besides becoming increasingly political, team Anna's campaign is becoming increasingly farcical. I find it amusing that the campaign has attracted so much attention in the first place. But this is largely due to media's obsession for creating sensation about every damn thing. It's sick that media and supporters alike are referring to Anna almost like a saint. And those innumerable references to him being a Gandhian! It's the same fawning attitude that the country had maintained for Nehru family that it is showing now for Anna and his team.
First, he is not at all a Gandhian. Far from it. Gandhi's grandson himself admitted he finds equating Anna with Gandhi funny. However, it's an irrelevant point. It matters little if he is one or not. He may have done commendable job in his village. Reward him with Bharat Ratna, recommend him for two Nobel prizes too. But that's that. Extrapolating it to suggest that he is some saviour of the entire country is illogical and idiotic. It speaks low of the intelligence of the population, but probably that's really how dumb we are. If it is indeed true that thousands of youth are supporting the campaign, then it makes me feel sad. When the young are so thoughtless, then the future of the country is hopeless.
It appears that when some countries got sick of dictatorship and made violent yet bold moves to try democracy, India is willingly letting a despotic team take the reins.
Corruption is not about money. It's about greed. It's about values. Our entire education system is designed for the sole purpose of earning livelihood. Success is worshipped (btw, this isn't an exaggeration. The increasing number of suicides among students more than clearly suggests how much importance the society places on academic performance). Success is measured in terms of wealth. Ambition is encouraged and the young are constantly driven to compete and succeed. Naturally, the system endorses accumulation of wealth and private ownership. As much as one dislikes to admit, money is an important criterion for the institution of marriage. This is the system we live in.
One is expected to succeed, so one is always on the run to earn more than his peers. Greed is not looked at as harmful anymore, so much so that advertising campaigns overtly suggest that greed is cool. With such a system in place, why is it then a surprise if corruption is rife? Such a system naturally encourages corruption. So when we don't do anything to change the system, but try to address a superficial offshoot, are we solving the problem totally? Will it ever stop corruption?
Media is a shameless bitch. Movies like Rann only mildly give a glimpse of how media houses are actually run. It's only the gullible who would believe that media are really concerned about citizens. We have scribes in hundreds, but how many investigative journalists do we have, for a country our size? How many of us know how actually crime and political reporting is done? Anyways, that's beside the point.
Media make it sound as if corruption is a recent phenomenon. Take a sting camera and go to any court in the country and record 30 minutes of footage at any magistrate's or lawyer's and it'll make for a brilliant piece in any documentary on corruption. Extend it further and follow a case for a week, and you can make two films. If one cares enough, catch the lower staff of police or a court, offer him a drink and converse with him for three hours and you can crack all the behind-the-scenes stories. Check with a constable how much he had paid to get into service. Check with the helpless villagers who are subject to endless rounds of visits to courts, harassed by cops, lawyers and the powerful. Check with the retired employees who slogged their lifetimes for government and are then harassed by government for months when they seek pension. Worse, check with orphans, refugees, the displaced if they receive funds and the conditions they are made to live in. Install spycams in any lawyer's and get an hour's footage and air it. Actually, no need to air it. Everyone who has been there knows it.
What have media done till the team Anna had surfaced? Sleeping? They have not woken up even now. It's funny that some people get carried away and defend the media group they follow, as being genuinely fighting for people's cause. One simply forgets that the editor, let alone reporters, is just another chap who is working to push a few points up in his next appraisal. This is not to dismiss all editors, but to only stress that the majority in the mainstream cannot be expected to be expansive and standing up for people's cause.
While electronic media exploited the campaign to their advantage, very few eds cared to ask pertinent questions of the team and its campaign. However, given the blind support from the masses, these few voices were never heard.
To believe that passing a certain bill will solve the problem is the upshot of very lazy and superficial thinking. The campaign suggests that it's only the politicians and bureaucrats who are corrupt. But they can't be corrupt if we are not. It's not possible. However, by supporting the campaign, we are conveniently absolving our responsibility. In the name of honesty, we are shamelessly justifying our deeds of corruption. Statements like, "but he demanded, so I had to give", "but I needed my passport urgently, so I had to bribe", etc. We are corrupt. Country is corrupt. So when the media tell me that the country is supporting the campaign, I wonder how one misses the contradiction in that! Who is complaining against whom? People often tend to ignore, or at best rationalise, personal transgressions, but this is taking it too far.
How many supporters have actually sit and read the draft? This is not a casual question, for the heck of it. I have met at least four people in media who had actively supported team Anna, posted messages on social media, made it to the venues, admit that they have not read the draft. It's easy to see that there are so many more such supporters who have no idea what the draft says. All they know is that the team is up with some permanent, magic solution for graft. Politicians and bureaucrats have failed us, so we blindly put the trust in an apolitical group that exploits the fixation for Gandhian ideals and persuades that they are above board and are here to save the country. While on the one hand there's this constant statement of pride that we are a great democracy, most of the supporters are so blinded that any voice of dissent or doubts about the campaign are being dismissed outright as rubbish and anti-national. Just like Anna and his team, the supporters are not open for any debate. And then we look down upon fundamentalists!
Politicians have been failing us. For decades. Yet, it is we who elected them. Again and again. It's absurd to not exercise any prudence while voting and come back and complain when politicians exploit. While voting, we never press for the history of candidates. We never press for accountability or responsiveness of the state. The campaign should have actually been about this. We helplessly sit back and watch when convoys after convoys of those goons stall thousands of us on roads for hours. The campaign should have been about this. The problem is we don't have a voice. We never had a voice. Vote is our only weapon, the only moment when we feel that sense of power. And we waste it thoughtlessly. Sadly, those who vote believe that the deed of voting, by itself, is a "responsible" gesture and blame the few who stand firm and refuse to vote. Rightly, then, we deserve this state of affairs. We deserve the corrupt goons. Importantly, we also deserve these dumb and phony teams who are equally exploitative but shrewdly persuade us that they are saviours.
We have been irresponsible. We are being irresponsible and thoughtless. Loyalty to political parties is important to us than bringing upright chaps to power. During every contest, there are goons who campaign loudly and lure with incentives, and there are also these upright chaps who plead us to make an informed and mature choice while voting. But we elect the goons! So what are we cribbing about? Why is media pretending that corruption has just been discovered while it had been there as a virus, for decades? We seek and worship power. We brag our associations with the powerful and we exploit these to our advantage. We want contracts, licenses, seats in academia, favours from police and courts, and we use these very people for the same. And if at a rare moment of introspection we do ask ouselves, "why", we have a ready justification, "but everybody else is doing it, if I don't do they will trample me".
If we really believe corruption is a problem and that it needs an immediate fix, we must begin with ourselves. And it means making sacrifices. To conveniently leave it on some team to prepare the ground and if we merely want to walk in and enjoy, is to be irresponsible. How many of us are prepared and willing? The situations are often testing. Let's take a simple one - a guy is rushing for a meeting. It's rush hour. The auto fellow asks 20 bucks extra. No other auto in sight. Technically, if the guy agrees, it's corruption. If the guy refuses and risks the meeting, the boss will not take it. He will think it's dumb of the chap to risk an important meeting for a mere 20 bucks. Let him go home and share this with his spouse, and she will agree with the boss. Let him tell that the boss might screw the appraisal and, effectively, it might cost incentives, promotions and even the job, she will accuse him of being a weakling and inconsiderate too. This is the normal script. And yet, the chap, the boss, and the spouse will discuss about the evils of corruption. Nobody wants to take the risk when stakes are high. A little noise on social media, a few inconsequential conversations over coffee, a rally or two on roads are fine. That's the bit most are prepared for. Nothing more.
Why? "But I have a family to think about", is a ready answer. Exactly! As virtuous and noble as it may sound, it's an easy justification. Technically speaking, the various incentives that companies shower on employees for overtime, etc qualify under corruption, but how many of us will admit this and forego? Taleb is right when he said not to trust those in corporate confinement, for they will do anything to provide for the family. This tells why such campaigns, regardless of how regionally wide they spread, are shallow and useless.
Behind all the noble talk is the demand of petty need for survival. As the classic prisoner's dilemma suggests, it makes sense to cooperate only till the other is cooperating. So we always look for a win-win situation, which is the rational approach, as many behavioral scientists would agree. Effectively, we tend to change the external factors first. "Let the world change and I will change, too", is the stand of the majority. It doesn't work.
However good the intentions, as long as we don't improve the implementation process, it doesn't really matter what's there in the bill. We already have a very strongly framed rulebook. The law simply says corruption is a punishable offence, no matter who you are. Is this single statement not enough to bring the corrupt to the book? How does it matter if we frame the same statement in 20000 different ways, and brag about a 1000-page bill? We have the police, we have the CBI, we have the courts. Why do we need another group that wants a supercop status? Cops have screwed us enough. Do we seriously need supercops? Two decades hence, if we sit on a pile of complaints against these supercops, will we again ask for a super-supercop team? Are we sane?
The government and media are unecessarily making a fuss about it. The government has nothing to fear even if it passes the bill as is, blindly. For, the rules by themselves are nothing. It's people who implement them. People are corrupt. Power corrupts. If tomorrow I must file a complaint, I have to go to some chap who represents the team. It won't be Anna or Kejriwal himself. It will be some local representative. Being the kind of body it is, the chap will have his own network. Just like the cops. If the guy I want to file a complaint against happens to be a friend or relative of this chap, will he pursue the complaint fairly and objectively? That's the whole point. Merely having a foolproof rulebook is useless if people are not taught the values of being objective and upright.
Assuming that the chaps are, by some miracle, objective and fair, the problem is not over yet. The case ultimately must go through the judiciary. But is the judiciary under the purview of the bill? By a further stretch, even if one wins the case and ensures that the guy is behind bars, he can still bribe the courts and get away. Which is what is happening even now. So, what the fuck? Why do we need another bill or nationwide team to repeat the same circus?
Rules and clauses are meaningless. Given the powers that the team is seeking, we are up for screwing ourselves more. More innocents will be screwed. It will be a very big price to pay to being a few culprits to the book. True, a few goons might be convicted, but a hundred innocents will get screwed. Is this what we want? If we do push for this bill to be passed, it will be a big fucken mistake that we will regret two decades later.
When cops introduced the grievance cell for complaints about autos, everyone thought there will be no more problems with autowallahs. The grievance cell is still active. Only, the complaints are too many and the staff are too few. Over. It came full circle. The auto fellow will give the grievance cell's number himself, if you threaten him.
Frankly, how does it matter to a citizen if a certain minister had fleeced a few crores and put it in a swiss bank? The guy never gets to deal anything directly with the chap in high-office. It's fine to discuss the macro processes, but it's more academic than pragmatic. If the guy uses only 8 bucks for every 10, and pockets the remaining 2, but does the work for me, I am fine with it. He may have a fat swiss account, but that's irrelevant for me. So long as he has used the other share for public, it's fine. So the point to push for is that he should be doing the tasks he is expected to. If that isn't done, there's no use even if we bring all the black money in swiss accounts home. I may have to pay 2 bucks for every task of 10 bucks, but so long as it's a win-win situation, I shouldn't have a problem. If I justify my giving 2 bucks, but expect the other guy to be clean, it's sheer nonsense.
The Team (Team Anna)
I don't pretend to know much about the team. If doesn't quite matter. If they are upright, it's great. If they are not, well, it's nothing shocking. However, going by how it did in the past few months, the team comes across as despotic and shrewd. And why has the team been targetting only Congress?
Anna: He has no direct answers to any questions. All he has is references to his stint with the Army, as if it's a qualification in itself for saving the country, or hyperbole. He believes flogging is right. An idealist. When someone slaps Pawar, he quips, "only one!?" on national television. Complete with a Nehruvian cap, he assumes a grandfatherly role and talks in the tone of "my way or highway". This man is the Gandhian saviour? The most surprising point is that even The Economist had praised him! If Anna was a young chap in tees and jeans, would the media and the masses have taken him as seriously, even if he was as earnest, if not more? It's not by accident that Kejriwal is not at the helm.
Kejriwal: Did a fabulous job about RTI. IIT, Magsaysay and all that. Brilliant! But Lokpal is a different ball game, sorry. His illogical statements about congress goons have made a few writers doubt the standing of the IIT joint entrace exam! That says it all.
Kiran Bedi: Magsaysay again. Great. Give another and ask her to be happy with her guest lectures, inflated bills, and her organisation. If she really believes she is up against corruption, she should first understand what 'entitled' implies. If I am entitled for second-class AC fare, it just means that that's the maximum I can avail of. It doesn't mean I can claim by default, even when I travel sleeper-class. To come up with the reason that, "but I have been using that excess for running my charity organisation", is a fucken sick excuse. Simply put, to claim more than my spend amounts to corruption. If all the corrupt come with the same excuse that they inflated the bills to use the excess for their family, extended family, relations, neighbours and social service, will we accept it, as we accepted Bedi's? If we so generously accepted Bedi's, why do we have a problem with the goons?
It is these people that we put faith in? No wonder country has gone to the dogs!
We have bills and rules aplenty. As good as they come. Enough! We don't need more. What we need is that the extant rules are implemented fairly and objectively. We have enough teams and groups. Another team is redundant. If we go on adding supercop bodies, there'll be no end to it. We need to push for accountability and responsiveness of the state. Black money is a secondary issue. The country isn't bankrupt. It's sitting on a huge pile of cash. The goons spend crores for just dinners over inconsequential sessions. We need to push that the existing money is used judiciously. We need to push that the goons be stripped away off all privileges. Cut the crap of VIPs and VVIPs and VVVIPs. Everybody is important. They better realise they are just doing a job like anyone else and not doing some fucken favour.
The needs of documentation and layers of approval are infinite. The common man gets sick of this. The poor get sick of this. This is the problem. Cut the layers. Simplify the processes. Make them more transparent. Hire more people to expedite the process, not to further complicate. Incentivise the employees on the basis of efficiency, not on the basis of targets. Importantly, incentivise. Make the transactions off cash. Reward the employees with commissions. Mandate that the goons visit their constituency at least once every month. Mandate them to design KRAs and status updates every quarter. Appraise the goons, and fire them if they don't meet expectations. Teach cops and lawyers to be upright. Punish them more severely if they transgress or exploit. Expedite the trial process in courts, tighten the judiciary. Thousands of innocents are slogging in prisons. Ensure justice for them. Tipping informers for information is also corruption. If you cut that, what’s the incentive for them to crack and share the information?
How do liquor licenses work? How do companies win contracts? How do companies route their money through tax havens? How many employees inflate bills? Who is complaining about corruption then?
None of these is foolproof. For, it all starts with education. It all starts at homes and schools. But that comes later. First, if we must change some things, we must change the existing processes and structure and not add more.
Money is not the problem. Reponsiveness is.
To compare with other countries doesn't make sense. So long as we worship success and power, and measure these on the basis of money, there's no solution for corruption. Our system encourages private ownership and the practice of dowry still exists in the institution of marriage. Support from state is negligible either in education, unemployment or healthcare. So no matter how many such bills, people will continue to find ways of making money. Of saving money. For someone, chairty may be an excuse, for another, family is.
India ranks 39th on the Democracy index. Content with fuss about shallow issues and avoiding reflection, we seem to be doing no better.
11 Sep 2010
Murthy, our adorable team mate and loyal friend, passed away on August 16, 2010. Many of you are as familiar with him as you are with Ranga Shankara itself - he was mostly found walking around with a certain sense of pride in those theatrical eyes, or sleeping in his favourite spot in the theater - under the first table in the cafe.
Murthy came to us with the site - he has been through the complete journey of the construction, opening and running of Ranga Shankara.
Murthy was a perfect theaterwallah - throughout the three years of construction, he insisted on sleeping in the area marked for the stage, has participated in all the acting workshops conducted in the ground floor and has always occupied a first-row seat during platform performances.
We will miss him dearly. May he rest peacefully.
(Spotted at Ranga Shankara. For such a touching obit, it'd be odd to mention that Murthy is a dog. The poster was complete with its photograph.)
1 Sep 2010
A letter from a Holocaust survivor explaining why he had ceased to believe in God.
“God had allowed SS troops to snatch a baby from his mother and then use it as a football. When it was a torn lump of flesh they tossed it to their dogs. The mother was forced to watch. Then they ripped off her blouse and made her use it to clean the blood off their boots.”
(Source: The Economist)
It's lopsided and insensible to talk of progress and civilisation and take pride when the fumes of Holocaust still pervade the air. Holocaust is the reference point of the so-called civilisation and all things human. The point is we are still only as human.
Beast is a fact. God is a myth.
13 May 2010
This is about a topic on discussion forum, so I thought it fitting to post on blog instead of on e-mail. Just curious of the status of the campaign TV news channels killing Hyderabad's image for TRPs. The last comment was posted on March 23, and it's very likely no more comments would come. So, have these comments been sent to the chaps concerned at TV channels? What have the chaps replied (if at all they did!)?
It was an active topic that attracted impressive comments, so I'm curious, as a reader, to know where it stands this day. It'd be encouraging if any of those chaps really replied anything more than the usual politically correct PR bullshit.
The interest of groups dwindles faster and most campaigns don't accomplish anything. Just that the readers would know that at least the fullhyd team did their bit.
10 Apr 2010
Among the many captions that make me observe the changing trends in freedom of personal expression, the following two (spotted last week) stand out.
Front: "I am 9. Will you be 6?"
As regards their right to choose what to wear and what captions to flash, nobody need question. They can go naked if they prefer. None of my business.
If they think it is a simple exercise of freedom and believe in it so firmly, they should be, to my mind, mature enough to grant the same to the rest as well. And it implies not making a fuss when a few brats pass lewd comments. If they think it's a sign of being bold, why not, then, ask it straight of their guys? Why flash it among crowds? Besides attracting avoidable reactions, it proves futile. If they think it's an ostentatious sign of empowerment (a term in vogue, of late), it's an insult to their own intelligence.
When you step in the wild, you don't say "it's my Earth, my home, so I can walk in any which way at any time", although nobody need, technically, question your choice. If you choose to, though, you must have it in you to be a potential prey, however little the probability is, for a tiger.
Freedom is a responsibility by itself, not a license to dump all responsibilities.
7 Apr 2010
A company hires a chap, puts him on probation, and assesses his performance at the end of the term. If it is happy with his performance, his services are confirmed. Else, he is fired. If he is offered confirmation, it appraises his performance every year. It holds the right to fire him whenever he fails to make a certain cut. Appraisal decides his incentives and career path.
We elect goons (politicians, I meant) to run the country. We pay for their fake telephone bills, conveyance bills, luxury accommodation and food, and redundant security. When their convoys pass by, we subject ourselves to mindless trouble, risking deadlines, including those even of interviews and hospital appointments. Once we finish with voting, we are as good as non-existent. We issue them a license to plunder the country for five years. Or even more. Responsiveness is mild and accountability is zero.
We need change. It's high time. Why should the goons be exempt from probation and appraisal processes?
I have been hearing about gairbi hatao and other similar campaigns all my life. All the hype and fuss about economic growth notwithstanding, poverty continues to be the most pressing problem. In all these years (we are talking about decades here), poverty has been cut by barely a few percentage points! Some achievement, that! We are an incredibly complacent nation. And complacency is not a virtue when we talk about nations. It's a shame.
Sixty years of experiment has proved to be a massive fiasco. If anything, it has benefited only the rich and the powerful. The number of Indian billionaires has gone up in the global list. But that's that. The country is being run by goons and the future is hopeless. Things must change. This very day.
1.The goons must be put on probation. Their performance must be assessed on the basis of our feedback. If they fail, they must be grilled on live television and fired. These chaps should be barred from contesting again. If they do good, they must be appropriately commended on live television and offered confirmation of service.
2.After confirmation, their performance must be appraised every year. If they fail at any point of time in their term, they must be fired. If they do good or excel, they should be offered appropriate incentives.
3.When they go to office, they must go as one among us. Follow the signals, do away with those booming red lights, and stop if the traffic jams. They already have bullet-proof vehicles, so there's no reason to expect royal privileges on road. Positions in political office come with a risk, so they must take it. If they are shit scared, they must step off the chair and give it to more deserving chaps.
4.Every job has its respective functions and responsibilities. Their job isn't, technically, any more important than our jobs are. They are not going to stop some war. They are just going to work, so they must go as quietly as we do.
5.Theirs are public service profiles, and we are sponsoring them. So they must submit annual expense reports to us. If they go on a foreign visit, they should submit a report of the findings. They better not just talk about transparency and bullshit; they better implement it.
6.Government must outsource a few of its processes. Every constituency should have a PO office. They should collect our feedback regularly, analyse it and report it to the respective representative. The same report should be shared with us and the respective party chief. It should also be copied to the CM and PM.
7.Increase citizen participation; resolve their problems promptly.
8.They better behave decently and argue maturely at the workplace. They are standing for the brand of the country and they better protect it. Besides, we are paying for the infrastructure. Behave as responsible adults and not as mindfucked lunatics.
9.The GPOs (Government Process Outsourcing) must be run by private organisations, please.
10.Let not the government kid that running a GPO is not a joke. Running a BPO is not a joke, either. There are exceptionally smart people out there who can run GPOs. If the goons excel at screwing the country, there are brilliant people out there who are as good at building the country.
11.A GPO for every constituency implies generating huge employment and improving the relations between goons and citizens. Much needed.
If it means a total departure from the extant practices and processes, so be it. If it means challenging the "sanctity" of constitution, so be it. Country is important, not some conventions marketed by a colonial regime.
This may not be the best solution. It may have flaws too. Nonetheless, if a few brilliant chaps come together I'm sure they will come up with better solutions.
It's high time indeed.
6 Apr 2010
If we rank governments as regards compassion, ours should rank first. So that the citizens never get bored, it cracks jokes with amazing frequency. Laughing is good for health, so making people laugh is the best healthcare and compassionate gesture. The latest one came in the form of women's bill. Only, the joke is on women! And on us, the citizens, at large! As it always is, truth be told!
A historical move, they said on the idiot box. A few women anchors seek opinions and reactions from a few pretty young girls at some academic institution. "Women rock!" is the unanimous verdict. They giggle a lot, yell a lot, and think little. And the TV channel passes it as if they are the jury and they have just announced the judgment. It's quite likely that none of these would make it to mainstream politics in their lifetime. Besides, it's quite likely they may settle in a foreign country. And I can bet my money that most of them haven't spent even two minutes to think what the bill is all about. Look at it from whichever way, they are an inappropriate sample (for this issue) to represent the generation. It's the opinions of these that the news channel airs as the "voice of India's young women"! It's tough to decide whom to laugh at - the government? the media? the audience (you and me)?
When there has never been, in the first place, any restriction for women to participate in politics, what's the rationale to press for quota for them? Politics is serious business, and it's ridiculous to seek participation by invitation. That effects a new form of discrimination, doesn't it? - that against men. You may be the best man for the job, but the seat is meant for a woman! Are women incapable of getting elected without a law to push them along? It confounds me that women are thrilled at this move, when the message actually is - they are not as good as men and need the help of law to get political power!
We had Indira Gandhi at the helm for many years. We have Sonia Gandhi, Pratibha Patil, and a bunch of women parliamentarians and legislators. So when the process doesn't have a bias against women, why this need for quota? Besides, the law is flawed for it assumes that if there are more women in parliament they will fight for women's rights more strongly! Assuming that the law is indeed meant to benefit women, which "women" are they exactly referring to? If the government is so very clear as to which women it wants to help and what kind of benefits it wants to provide to them, what is stopping it from doing it right away? If they really care for their upliftment and believe that this can be achieved only by having more women in parliament, why not mandate parties to nominate 30% women as their representatives? What stopped Sonia Gandhi to mandate her party to allocate 30% tickets to women? Why doesn't she push Priyanka into politics? Why Rahul Gandhi? Instead of mandating the parties, why mandate citizens to elect a certain percentage of women? She obviously didn't want to risk the ire of the male party representatives.
And whom do they want to uplift? The spouses and relations of the goons (read politicians) that we have now? After all, it will be them who will contest and win. And loot the country. The downtrodden, the oppressed, the poor women will never be given a chance. So, whom will it exactly benefit? There are, even now, many women who are working for the upliftment of the disadvantaged. But they will never be allowed to enter mainstream politics. If the government really cares, as it would have me believe, why doesn't it invite them right away and provide them with the requisite funds and infrastructure? What has government done to, say, Sunitha Krishnan who has been working for the exploited and marginalised women? Instead, a few of her colleagues have been eliminated! And she continues to receive threats.
The reference group for politicians is always an abstract one. They always talk about change happening "somewhere there". And the gullible buy it too. Change is always in reference to "the others". They always talk in terms of "we will help them". Nobody ever questions who exactly them are.
Doesn't the government know where the poor live? Doesn't it know where prostitutes live? What stopped the government to rehabilitate, educate and employ the thousands of exploited women in, for example, a Sonagachi or a Kamatipura? What stops the government from doing so? Does it need more women parliamentarians to research, analyse and do a thesis in order to take action? Bullshit. The government makes a huge revenue from these spots and slums alike, so it will never touch them. Instead, it would want them to thrive. So the poor and the exploited would remain as they are. Affirmative action is just a political point-making in this country. Nothing more.
If it really cares, why not improve the quality of education for women? Why not penalise parents who don't send their girl child to school? Why not execute those who commit female feoticide and infanticide? Why not encourage more women to become social entrepreneurs? Why not persuade women to think more independently? What is really required is a change in the culture of how men and women relate to each other. The problem is with attitudes and values. You cannot change these by passing laws. It's akin to a large company that razes hundreds of acres of forest for its survival and does a few CSR exercises to flaunt that it cares for the world! It works good for the feminist organisations as well. They need some situation or the other, else the funds will stop. And if there's no situation, they must create one. Nobody gives a damn to the poor, the exploited, and the disadvantaged. The few who do are pushed into the background.
India is a telling proof as to why democracy doesn't work for a large, diverse population. As a scholar noticed, "India's grotesque personality cult built around the Nehru-Gandhi family continues to make its people the laughingstocks of the world. Let's face it, the primitivist politics belying India's democratic facade shows the country's true face. The bill is a farce. It personifies the Congress government's impotent rule. If the government really wanted more Women participation there must have been a reservation for the weaker sections of the society. Now, bigger classes and upper castes will have the last laugh. The one time electable 1/3rd women will plunder the country in 5 years and waltz away overseas".
Arun Shourie sums up perfectly the current state of the country: "Now, mediocrity has become the norm. Intimidation has become argument, and assault has become proof. Because I can assault you therefore I am right".
They talked about liberalisation as if it was the panacea. It has been twenty years. Trade has certainly changed for the better. The rich have become richer, the successful have become more arrogant, and the powerful have become more ruthless. What else has changed? Of course a few crumbs were thrown at the poor, for that helps the PR chaps to project that the campaign has been immensely successful.
A fitting quote: "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy".
The joke is on women. The joke is on us. I wonder when we will wake up!
25 Feb 2010
When I said I cannot stand romance flicks, I believed it was a simple statement. I feel it's a simple case of preferences which doesn't need any explanation, unless I'm missing something vital. If a certain X enjoys Mexican cuisine, red color, parasailing and war cinema, that's his take and he doesn't need to explain it to anyone, as I see it. But when I said I cannot stand romance (and, therefore, Bollywood) flicks, she thought I am insane (insantiy has relative definitions, yes). Therapy is a must, she felt. Assuming the role of the therapist, she prescribed: "five movies on weekend". And booked the tickets. Arguing was futile, I realised.
After the drought, the flood. Five flicks, then, it was. Thanks to reviewers among friends, I get to read comprehensive reviews of flicks as they hit the screen. So I put my take brief.
Ishqiya: Nice script and impressive performances made it a good watch. Given that realism is almost dead in Bollywood, such scripts are welcome. In the past few years, I remember only two good scripts (among the very few flicks I had watched, I must add) - Dor and A Wednesday. Naseeruddin Shah is, of course, the strength of the film.
OK flick, overall. Rating - 3.0 (on 5)
Rann: After a few forgettable flicks, Varma seems to rediscover his magic. A very contemporaneous script that dares to pose a serious question (which, like most others, is easily ignored and forgotten soon after one steps out of the cinema) about the regrettable condition and murky side of media in this country. Impeccable performance from Big B. For the strength with which his character holds to values, however, it looked unconvincing that he could be won over by a sly three-minute persuasive talk by his son. In contrast, the three-minute talk about the consequences of inaccurate reporting in Woody Allen's Scoop is more appealing. Keeping that failing aside, Varma surely dares to bare the ruthless side of media and politics. The last time one tackled this subject in Indian cinema was perhaps Ramesh Sharma with his masterpiece, New Delhi Times, in late '80s! (by the way, where is A K Bir these days?)
Varma can do better, though. Would be good if he gets back to his form soon. Rating - 2.5
3 Idiots: I may sound like an idiot when I say this, but I didn't quite get the movie. After pretending to take a dig at the obsession with success, it ends up glorifying success! "Don't run after success; strive for excellence and success will naturally follow; succeed nonetheless" seems to be the message. Ends remain the same; just change the means. Big shit. In that case, why belittle the unhealthy emphasis on success, in the first place? Obsession with excellence cannot be less destructive. The problem is not success, but obsession. I would have liked it if it showed Rancho as a school teacher or a shepherd, perfectly enjoying life in Ladakh. A regular formulaic flick. Aamir did a great job, though. And that gorgeous lake in the last scene!
I couldn't stand that "all is well" crap. With his kind of talent, I wonder why Vinod Chopra did not push for a better script. Whatever has happened to him after Parinda! Rating - 2.0
My Name Is Khan: Shah Rukh should never try experimenting. For, the character always goes into the background. A typical KJ melodrama that ostentatiously believes in "nothing is impossible" line. Reality is harsh and that's the way the world is. So why not tell me a story that is fair, even if unpleasant? Ever heard of any terrorist suspect getting out of a prison, and completely sane at that? One may say why not give it a chance in that it may be talking of that one exception? Fair enough. But, to be candid, the package had too many incredible things happening.
Joke no.1 - The film teaches Amnesty International a lesson or two about how to run their campaigns!
Joke no.2 - Shah Rukh does a Dustin Hoffman!
And I really wish they stop this fixation with 9/11. After all, they use it only as the backdrop. Why not a flick on the discrimination and injustice happening right here? Is it because it's too sensitive and could run into probs with the government and censor board?
Anyways, the flick gets 2.0
Avatar: With Titanic, my awe for James Cameron vanished. So I didn't expect much from Avatar, and it worked. A simple tale of forceful plunder of land and resources by the powerful, and the resistance of the natives. Put it on another planet for the sake of fantasy, generously use scientific references, throw in some superstition that befits primitives in a forest, and exploit visual effects to the extreme, and you get Avatar. "Sometimes all life boils down to one insane move", the protagonist avers and assumes the role of the saviour. A taut screenplay that's typical of Cameron, and absolutely stunning visual effects.
Rating - 3.0
When the run ended, I felt absolute relief and resumed reading the grim and gripping script that a friend is penning.
30 Jan 2010
I was told Elsewhere was as dismal as it could get. Dismal or not, the take was very simple - the bird (it could be a person) is broken. It is here, but it doesn't belong here. Its heart and soul are elsewhere. It longs to be there, but it can't be there, for some reasons. It is compelled to be here, but it knows it isn't here. There's no escape from this harsh fact. Everything comes to a rest. Existential crisis. A life in limbo. When the statement "life sucks" becomes the ultimate truth.
Anyways, it had a good side - a friend, who teaches at Banaras Hindu University, shared the following poems written by students. The first few lines suggest why the friend thought these were fitting to share.
when you get time just read this -
somewhat looks like your oeuvre -
morose, pessimistic, down in dumps
'uffff yeh life!' variety of poems-
Has wound itself around
Each one of us
Caught in its opaque grasp
We go through our lives
Feeling even less
When we hold out our arms
Hoping to connect
The metal glints
Brutal as mirror
All we can see in it is -
Our own faces
A Paean to Postmodern Love
a code sketched in dust
You look away
The wind blows
The pattern shifts
When you look again
You discover it says-
- (courtesy, A.S.)