General ravings

Surviving the Indian Railways: perfecting the Pajama Hop

 Guidelines for Indian Railway travellers on how to change into pajamas at 130 kmph

Some years ago, O gentle and hapless reader, I’d drawn up a set of guidelines for the intrepid male Indian Railway traveller, on the fine art of shaving on express trains without performing involuntary self-circumcision or castration.  [Click here to view]

Now, bowing to widespread demands from orthopaedists, podiatrists and orthodontists who wish to remain anonymous, and ignoring thy vociferous protestations, I present a similar set of guidelines on how to change safely into pajamas during overnight train journeys…a process that is normally, and in the interests of public decency, undertaken in the toilet. For the sake of simplicity and brevity, these guidelines too are directed at male travellers: however, they can be adopted, with slight adaptations as needed, by travellers of all genders.

1 – Enter toilet with pajamas securely wrapped around neck, or tucked into waistband of trousers. Bolt door.

2- Carefully open up pajamas and tie them by the string (naada) to the clothes-hook behind the door. Use a good, strong knot like a square knot or clove hitch (you may click here to learn how to tie these knots and/or tie yourself in knots). Note: do not simply hang the pajamas from the hook, because the slightest jerk of the train will dislodge them on to the yucky floor.

3- Roll up both* trouser legs to at least 6 inches above the ankles (*if three-legged or more-legged,  roll up all trouser legs). This will protect your trousers from the swirling muck on the floor, and also make removal of the trousers easier.

4- Remove trousers, step by step and leg by leg as outlined in (a) to (d) below. [Warning: This entire process demands patience, extraordinary courage and lightning reflexes, to counter the violent lateral movements of the speeding train and to guard you against the perils of falling headlong into the W.C., and/or injuring various limbs, bones, joints and appendages]

(a) Lift right leg and use left hand to clutch on to clothes-hook or pajamas tied to hook, in the absence of any alternative dependable object to clutch. Note: do not attempt to clutch edge of washbasin, W.C. chain or pipes, for these may suddenly disengage from wall, plunging you into W.C. Also, do not clutch tap of washbasin, as the tap might open, soaking you head to foot in spray of water that adds to slush on floor and undoes all the gains of Swacch Bharat Mission.

(b) Balancing on left leg and lengthening the spine, take several deep breaths (depending on freshness of air) and then slowly and cautiously draw off trousers from right leg, using your right hand. Be alert against losing balance and lunging head-first into wash basin, wall or W.C.

(c) Clamp your teeth firmly around the rolled-up bottom of removed (right) trouser leg. Lower right leg to floor. Carefully replace the left-handed grip on clothes-hook with right-handed grip. Then, breathing shallowly through the trouser-leg clenched in teeth, lift your left leg and draw off the trousers from that leg, using your left hand.

(d) Open jaws and grab at the falling (right) trouser leg with left hand. Ensure that you have not inadvertently pulled off underwear along with the trousers (a chill draft in the nether regions is a sure indicator of this unfortunate situation – in which case, you may retrace earlier steps and start afresh).

5- Sling trousers over the right shoulder, taking care that you do not sling them into W.C. or allow any dangling portion of trousers or self to touch the inundated floor. Regain balance and composure by taking several deep breaths (if possible).

6- Untie pajamas from clothes-hook. The process of undoing the good knot(s) you tied earlier requires you to use both hands and possibly your teeth as well; hence, extreme care is advised.

7- Sling pajamas over left shoulder (taking same precautions as you did with trousers on right shoulder). Now, remove trousers from right shoulder and secure trousers to the clothes-hook by belt-loops, or fly zipper if loops are not strong enough.

8- Roll up both pajama legs to half their lengths. Then, lean against door for support, and with pajamas pressed against the left hip, execute a series of small, kangaroo-like hops till you succeed in slipping your right foot into right pajama leg. Note: All too often, the hasty traveller inadvertently slips right foot into left pajama leg, setting off a catastrophic sequence of agonized leaps that invariably ends in strained muscles, sprained joints and worst of all, ruined pajamas. [Tip: use fluorescent marker pen to mark right and left legs of pajamas before-hand (rather, before-leg)]

9- In similar fashion, slip your left foot into left pajama leg.

10- Lean away from door, and standing upright, use both hands to pull up pajamas and knot them around waist. This penultimate step is also the most dangerous, as with both your hands occupied in tying the pajama knot, chances of diving into the W.C at various angles are maximum.

11- Remove trousers from clothes-hook. Clutch hair in agony as you see your cellphone drop from the trouser pocket into the W.C. Pull chain, open door and exit.

 

General ravings, Musings

Jai Vijaye Bhava,T M Krishna!

The other evening – 17th of November it was – I went with a couple of friends and heard T M Krishna sing at the Garden of Five Senses, Delhi.

It was great!

Krishna was in fine voice; a voice I’d heard only a couple of times earlier, rendering Thyagaraja krithis as smoothly as folk songs. Oh, and also singing in a short but powerful campaign video against Unilever for dumping toxic chemicals and endangering the people and ecology of Kodaikanal (click here to see it)

That’s all I knew of Krishna till around the 14th of November; that he was a great musician, innovative, that he sang for good causes.

And then this great big thing blew up in our faces, amplified to megaton levels by media: that Airports Authority of India  and Spic-Macay had abruptly cancelled a scheduled concert on 17th November featuring Krishna, among other artistes. AAI gave no reasons for the cancellation; but I understood, from editorials print and online, that Krishna was regarded by BJP sympathizers – and therefore, the Central Government, and by inference, AAI too— as ‘anti-Hindu’ and ‘anti-Indian culture’, all because he, Krishna, conveyed pithy political and social messages through his songs. I also heard and read that Krishna had been cruelly trolled by ‘right-wing Hindutva’ nuts.

All this I found profoundly disheartening, disturbing, disgusting.  I hoped, over those two days that followed, for some strong reaction from the Central Government, from AAI…but there was only stony silence.

And so, when Delhi’s AAP government announced that it would host a performance by Krishna on the 17th, I decided I must attend. Not to convey some glorious ‘secular message’ or make a ‘political statement’ or anything pretentious as that, but to simply hear Krishna, a musician who just wanted to sing from his heart about things he felt strongly about… and had been cruelly treated for wanting to do that.

Given the circumstances, I was a little worried about the event becoming more a political jamboree than a music concert. But credit to AAP leaders Kejriwal and Sisodia, not only did they arrive only about 20 minutes late, which is incredibly early by Delhi standards, but their bhashans were mercifully brief and non-incendiary. Krishna himself was all dignity: he murmured that he was there not to speak but to sing…and so he did: wonderfully, passionately, movingly.

Now, clacking out these words, I wonder: why must we taint everything in our lives that brings joy, with the corrosive acid of divisive politics?

My music or writing or theatre, my art, my rendering of what I think of as art, might not be to your liking, and vice versa; but surely we can each find the art we like and peacefully enjoy it without having to mock, disfigure, destroy others’ likes, others’ art? Without hurting others?

Just as you, gentle reader, might hold the view that I can’t write for nuts (doubtless with great justification). But that shouldn’t drive us – and our fans, our acolytes, assuming we have any – at each others’ throats?

Like:  I never liked M F Hussain’s paintings. M F Hussain, in my view, couldn’t paint for nuts. I have said so to friends who like M F Hussain’s paintings. It hasn’t affected our friendship.

I remember even writing so once (in Indian Express, in a letter): in the late 1990s, a time when, weirdly, it had become the politically correct thing to like M F Hussain, and you risked being branded ‘Hindu communalist’ or ‘fascist’ if you said you didn’t like Hussain. Well, I wrote I didn’t like M F Hussain’s work, not because his work offended my religious or cultural sensibilities but because his work offended my artistic sensibilities. But (I added) that didn’t mean I had the right to burn his paintings or run the man out of the country.

You, I, anyone at all, can take on T M Krishna fair and square, one-on-one, for his political views, such as they are…just as Krishna has the right to take on any of us fair and square for our political views, such as ours are.

But when Krishna the musician is invited to present his music, we must welcome him and respect him as musician.

I have heard Krishna, I love his music, I admire his politics. But that’s my opinion; you can think differently, it’s okay.

But none of us, none of us can allow a government institution like AAI to judge  an artiste, any artiste, by his or her perceived ‘politics’.

It is terrible, the way AAI has capitulated before a gang of nameless, faceless e-thugs whose claim to represent ‘Hinduism’ or ‘Indian culture’  is as well-founded as Lashkar e Toiba’s claim to represent ‘Islam’ or ‘Islamic culture’.

It is good that Delhi’s AAP government gave Krishna a chance to play at the Garden of Five Senses…and us the chance to hear him.

As of today, 19th November 2018, I am a votary of AAP.

But I shall watch AAP’s future activities with considerable interest before taking the call at the next polls. Knowing our politicians, be they from Left, Right or virtually non-existent Centre, chances are high that the AAP will commit some colossal balls-up ere long…

That’s why we need you, T M Krishna! Jai Vijaye Bhava! Jai Hind.

General ravings, Musings

A road forgotten…a road remembered

Wandering through some long-forgotten folders, I came across a few ancient F-class photos from late September 2008, when I travelled for a few days in eastern Uttar Pradesh, visiting villages in Allahabad and Pratapgarh districts. These villages were home to migrant brick kiln workers: primarily, kiln firemen and their families.

I’d taken these photos with my first and most favorite camera phone. How I miss its simple practicability: no frills, no fancy apps, just the large-sized alpha-numeric keyboard, left–right button navigation, and a 1-megapixel camera. The phone, alas, is long expired; as indeed are most of the memories of that trip. The sights, sounds, scents, emotions, the people I met, our conversations, the food we ate, the places I stayed in, the sequence of events, their vividness, the once-sharp outlines, are now smoothed and rounded off and merged into one amorphous, uniform, featureless, mass…like the distant hill you see from a speeding car or train, a blurry pile shimmering in mid-afternoon haze like a dream, seemingly moving along with you, keeping pace as you speed along across a vast plain, but ever-so-slowly lagging, slipping back, till it is left behind forever.

Yet the photos now bring back shards of memory; and even memory of memory. Broken memories they are, discontinuous, yet sharp and clear as glass splinters. A few village names come to mind:  Ghuisarnath, Akhirajpur, Lakhram, Tharia. The drives to the villages, from Allahabad or Lalganj or Pratapgarh, were very hard on the bones and muscles, especially the stretches along rutted, pot-holed country roads. Yet I’d loved the experience. With the monsoon over and winter yet to set in, the streams and canals ran deep and wide, the exhilarating aromas of moist earth and damp vegetation hung over the rich green countryside, raucous birds rejoiced in the dense copses of mango, babool, neem, amla.

Amidst this richness, the firemen’s villages presented a sharply contrasting picture of poverty, endless toil, of quiet, timeless despair. Typically, each village was located on elevated ground; a few score huts scattered across the slopes, linked by mud-and-rubble-and-brick paths, with the inevitable tank at the base of the village, filled to the brim post the rains, some with flotillas of duck. Every village had a shrine, usually a temple of sorts, beneath some giant pipal or banyan, fronted by a large swept clearing that was the community meeting ground.

Sewing class taking a break – the newspapers are not for reading, but used instead of waste cloth (a costly and hard- to-get raw material) to train the young seamstresses
Tharia

Such was the little village of Mendara. Memories of trudging across broken land and halfway up a small hillock to where a great banyan stood, ringed at a respectful distance from its hanging roots by other smaller trees. Sitting in a circle with the villagers beneath the banyan, conversing about the lives they led—at the kilns, which were sometimes thousands of kilometers away, where the firemen worked ceaselessly for seven months or more each year in the most horrific conditions; and in the villages where, with the menfolk gone for most of the year, the women and children and the elderly faced extreme hardships.  How deeply moving was their warmth, their innocence, their incredible generosity. Hogging large quantities of fresh gur, bananas, drinking sweet yet deliciously strong chai liberally laced with goat’s milk. Walking around the village; making comic faces at the little children who scampered around and giggled and guffawed and made faces right back at me. The small village shrine, exquisitely clean, utterly peaceful, with fresh flowers and a bunch of bananas placed in front of the tiny sanctum lit by a single lamp, redolent of goat’s butter.

Mendara

The village elder led the way up toward the crest of the hillock. The trees thinned, the ground levelled off, and suddenly, we were standing on the edge of a cliff that followed the contours of the hillock on either side: a broken, fifty-foot- high wall of angular rock faces and red, iron-rich earth, strewn with stone and rubble and the corpses of countless trees and bushes that had once dwelt on the slopes. Far across the shallow valley I saw a line of low hills; and running across their midriffs like a jagged knife wound, a road under construction—its course marked by the hideous, characteristic signs of road building in Indian hills: scarred slopes, littered with mounds of earth, blasted boulders, tree trunks scattered like matchsticks on the denuded expanses.

“That is the new road from Allahabad,” the elder murmured.

“The Allahabad Bypass Expressway,” a young fireman corrected him politely. “It will turn round that slope and pass close to Mendara, right below us. See? They are working quite close already.” He pointed toward the left and I saw in the distance a stretch of muddy track carved out from the hillside. A bright yellow earth-mover was gouging out great chunks of earth from the slope; the clattering roars of its engines faint but distinct.

“They say the Expressway will bring us jobs; that it will bring prosperity to us,” the young fireman went on. His voice was hesitant. “With jobs, maybe we can earn more, be closer to home through the year; we can take care of our women, our children. Maybe we won’t have to travel to work in faraway brick kilns any more…”

The elder sighed. “Yes…but with the coming of the road, our old ways are vanishing,” he went on softly, his eighty-five years carved into deep lines that divided his face into a thousand weathered segments.  “So many trees have been felled; entire forests are gone. We have always grazed our goats, our buffalo, in the plains down there, but now the grasses are withered, the ground is hard, the streams are bitter, or have dried up. Where  will we take our animals for grazing when the road is finished? When thousands of vehicles are moving up and down, day and night?”

His voice trailed away and we stood there in silence.

And that’s when, without warning, a memory flooded my mind like a river; a much older memory, from a time when I was much younger, maybe ten years old. It was during a drive in the mid-1960s, somewhere between Jorhat and Kaziranga in Assam; father was driving the car, mother seated next to him, brother and I were dozing in the back…till we were woken up with a start by the screeching of tyres as the car braked to a shuddering stop. Through bleary eyes I saw, in the dull red light of dusk, a dozen goats milling about on the road in front of the car, a young goatherd – a boy about my age – frantically darting about, crying out and wielding a bamboo stick expertly till he assembled the animals in a loose group and led them across the road and up a path leading to a cluster of huts on the slopes to the left.

“My God, I nearly hit them,” father murmured, his voice trembling, hands gripped tight on the wheel.

“It’s all right,” mother murmured. “I’ll drive for a bit…you take a break, you’ve driven the whole afternoon…”

As we set off again, mother at the wheel, I spoke up. “Stupid goats. Stupid villagers! Why do they have to live so close to the road?”

Father glanced around sharply but before he could speak mother replied. “Understand, always remember, they were here before us.” Her voice was soft but stern. “The villages, the villagers, were here long before this road came…before we came…”

On that hillock above Mendara, I heard and felt the impact of those words undiminished by the decades…as I do now, fifty years older but not much wiser.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

General ravings, Musings

Epics, Epic Idiocies, and Truths

Do bear with me, O suffering and patient reader, while I, at the risk of offending you, rant on many strange things—as always, without knowing why. On history, science, the nature of discovery, epics, epic stupidity…and most incoherently, on why I am always uncertain, always a little angry because I have no idea what’s truth or half-truth or untruth any more.

First, do take a look at this screenshot of a WhatsApp message I received from a friend whom I’ve always considered to be far more erudite and rational than me.

Inglorious Heritage

I read the message very carefully from start to finish and from top to bottom; I studied every row and column, I even turned the phone backward to discern any hidden meanings I might have missed (succeeding only in taking a selfie of my elbow and part of one ear, which I will post separately – the selfie, I mean, not the ear).

But I discerned no hidden meanings. There was only this brave, neatly tabulated edict shining forth on my phone screen; a declaration that physicists in ancient India had discovered the principles and laws and patterns that explain how the Universe works long before pretenders of the ‘West’.

Briefly, I felt the Worm of Incredulity stir and wriggle in my mind. Quickly, I reached for my mental Bata chappal and squished the foul creature. For, I am a proud Indian; I love my Veda and Upanishad; I wanted to believe!

Staring at the awesome proclamation, I felt my mind’s heart swell with pride at the thought that my glorious scientific Indian super-ancestors had discovered all there was to discover in the Universe, as long as 9000 years before any of those ‘Western physicists’. In my mind’s eye I could see them now—a multitude of goggle-eyed Western physicists tumbling at relativistic velocities, arse-over-elbow, into the great Latrine of History, to be swallowed by the eddying and foaming waters and flushed away into the Celestial Cesspits of Dissolution. In my mind’s ear (located just below my mind’s eye), the cerebral air resonated with the throbbing, universal sound of the sacred syllable “HOME”…

Hooommmmmeeeeee

I cackled in unholy glee as I beheld Anaxagoras, Galileo, Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, Planck, Rutherford, Bohr, Einstein, Dirac, Fermi, Feynman, Born, Schrodinger, Chadwick — heroes of my misbegotten and ignorant youth, now exposed as charlatans and pretenders, the bloody saala kuttas!— plunge headlong into that awesome and awful Thunderbox of Time…

Alas, my celestial reverie was rudely interrupted when, in that cerebral procession of academicians, I saw the familiar and beloved faces of Satyendra Nath Bose, C V Raman and Subhramanyan Chandrasekhar. Arre bhai, I thought to myself, these are deshvaasis! Enna daa, these are my very own Indian scientists! Pioneers they were, too, in their time; pathfinders in esoteric and diverse fields of knowledge, from nuclear physics to cosmology. Were they, too, cheats and frauds, usurpers of discoveries made in Vedic times?

The Worm of Incredulity wriggled frenziedly in my cortex; abruptly, the spell was broken. I regained my normal semi-sanity, and having fortified myself with strong kaapi, replied to my friend, expressing my doubts about the veracity of the tabulated data. I wrote:

I sometimes suspect idiotic messages like these are being created by CPM and affiliated scoundrels just to make the public ridicule ancient Hindu texts – a purpose served when gullible people forward these messages without a thought!”

Rather unfair, of course, as pointed out by another dear friend. Why point a finger at CPM alone, she asked, when the real reason why such messages work is because there are any number of idiots (including, damn nearly, you) who will believe anything they are told; who cannot, or will not, tell truth from untruth?

But then, I reflected later, what in Allah’s and Krishna’s and Marx’s names is ‘truth’?

I wandered the campus alone through the night, pondering the question. I asked the night-watchman, and the night-watchman’s dog: to no avail.

Now, as I type these meaningless words, I wonder: maybe ‘truth’ is what I choose to believe to be the truth?

Because today I can choose what I want to believe is the truth, damn the rest of the world, empowered as I am by the mainstream media and Net which allows me to sift through like 367 startlingly different versions of the same news or event to find the version of ‘truth’ that makes me the most comfortable.

TimesNow said so!”

I saw it on The Wire…so there!”

Indian Express carried it!”

Ha! NDTV will never mention it because they’re in cahoots with You-Know-Who!”

Maybe truth is simply, conveniently, what my dear friends believe to be the truth as of today; and I believe that truth because I don’t want to be seen as silly or churlish or – most scarily – apart from the group by doubting, questioning, arguing, differing.

Maybe it’s all these reasons, and more. Maybe there’s no such thing as ‘absolute truth’ anymore; if ever such a thing held …er…true.

Maybe we are all equally at sea. Lost in a stormy, ever-swelling Universe-wide ocean of information: an electromagnetic, 5G ocean that swamps our senses, numbs our brains, distorts our thoughts, impairs our cognitive processes, alters even our dreams with its mega-blather of social media twitter and chatter, its tides of toxic subliminal multimedia messages and memes. We are tossed about on its terrifying Waves of Opinion, maddened by the shrieking Winds of Hates and Lusts that lash the waters into froth, hurled again and again toward the jagged, slippery Reefs of Judgment;  our Sails of Resolve shredded, Compass of Confidence cracked, Lamp of Reason shattered, Moorings of Morality long forsaken…

And all the while, the ravenous Beasts of MAM wait impatiently for us to impale ourselves on the Reefs, or to release our despairing grips and slide into the seething waters …they, who have reduced our minds to a uniform, amoeba-like state of imbecility, the perfectly uniform baseline in which the only variants are the Truth-Feeds they manufacture and feed us with, 24/7…

The Beasts of Marketing, Advertising, Media.

Today’s Holy Trinity: Creator–Sustainer–Destroyer.

I seek, and find brief solace, in the music of that wonderful rock opera of the last century, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’: I shudder in the terrible words of Pontius Pilate in converse with Jesus:

Jesus: I look for Truth and find that I get damned.

Pilate: But what is Truth? Is Truth unchanging law?

We both have Truths—is yours the same as mine?

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVB8QBurhV0]

General ravings, Potshots

Art of Reliving

Resolve Mandir/Masjid Mess – learn from secular mosquitoes

It’s that happy time yet again! When, inspired by a cerebellum that is as overflowing with originality and creativity as Rahul Gandhi’s is, I reach into the dusty shelves of decade-old works and re-inflict them upon my hapless and rapidly dwindling readership.

The reason for committing this latest atrocity on thee, O dear and innocent reader, is to defend the initiative taken by Sri Sri Ravishankar—the Indian spiritual leader, head of ‘Art of Living Foundation’, popular among Hindus, Muslims and other communities for his teachings, cosmetics and other rejuvenating products—to engage with Muslim community leaders in an effort to settle the gangrenous, 30-year-old  Ram Mandir/Babri Masjid dispute out of court. Sri Sri’s initiative is being met with violent opposition from many rabid, self-styled leaders of Hindu and Muslim communities.

An important disclaimer: I am no ‘follower’ of Sri Sri. In fact, I have severely criticized him in speech and in writing (and still do) for hosting his ‘World Culture Festival’ on the Yamuna floodplains in March 2016; an event that led to the de-vegetation and flattening of a vast area on the floodplains. The repercussions of that ecological assault are still being directly and painfully felt by the undersigned and other residents of East Delhi in the shape of year-round  attacks by assorted species of mosquitoes (all of them entirely secular in their choice of prey);  because with the denudation of bushes and scrub on the floodplains, these bloodsuckers have lost their traditional  breeding and brooding grounds on the said floodplains.

But I still believe Sri Sri and his associates, Hindu and Muslim, are doing the right thing, indeed a noble thing, by trying to solve this hideous mess over Mandir vs. Masjid; a mess that’s led to mass murder in the past – and threatens mass murder in times to come.

If Sri Sri succeeds in his mission, I am even willing to forgive him for the mosquito bites he has caused me, and countless others of every faith.

And so, in good faith, I present here an article I wrote for the edit page of Indian Express nearly 15 years ago, when the Kanchi Shankaracharya launched an identical ‘reconciliation’ initiative in 2003—and was met with the same violent opposition and ridicule by so-called leaders of Muslim and Hindu communities. In fact, the man was even charged with murder in 2004, arrested, jailed and tried…only to be absolved of all charges and released in 2016!

You’ve taken on formidable forces, Sri Sri! Victory be thine: Jai Vijaye Bhava!

[article follows]

Listen to the Kanchi seer

R P Subramanian: Jun 14, 2003

http://archive.indianexpress.com/oldStory/25716/

 It is heartening that the Muslims of Faizabad-Ayodhya see the Kanchi Shankaracharya’s initiative to resolve the Ayodhya tangle as a ‘‘good beginning’’ (‘Local Muslim leaders find some hope…’, IE, June 11). Ironically, the sincerity of the Kanchi seer’s efforts is proven conclusively by the heated opposition he has drawn from the lunatic fringes — both Hindu and Muslim! Organisations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, All India Babri Masjid Action Committee and Sunni Wakf Board will never solve the Ayodhya problem because they are the problem. While the common citizenry of both faiths only want peace and harmony, these bodies comprise bigoted, self-serving individuals who not only claim to represent their religions, but have obtained enormous fame and political power precisely by keeping the Ayodhya issue simmering. Any solution to the dispute would threaten their very existence. Quite naturally, then, they have resisted, and will resist, any attempted solution. Remember how the Kanchi seer’s initiatives for dialogue were rubbished by both the VHP and BMAC in 2002?

Let us face it: the Ayodhya issue will not be resolved by the much-bandied ‘‘court decision’’ (assuming it ever comes). It will be solved only by mutual understanding between the Hindu and Muslim communities at large. After all, any court decision will be interpreted in only one of two ways: as favouring the building of a temple, or of a mosque. If the verdict favours a mosque, the VHP et al. will shriek that Hindus have been ‘‘betrayed’’. On the other hand, Muslim bodies such as BMAC will become redundant at a stroke; their very raison d’etre would be gone! So the VHP and similar self-styled ‘‘Hindu’’ bodies will incite violence across the country; the members of BMAC and similar ‘‘Muslim’’ bodies, threatened by redundancy, will find fresh reasons to project themselves as ‘‘defenders of the faith’’;  the outcome will be chaos and bloodshed.

And what if the verdict favours a temple? Alas, these dreadful organizations would merely switch roles. The BMAC would shriek that the Muslims have been betrayed, the VHP would assume the mantle of ‘‘defenders of Hinduism’’, and  chaos and violence would follow.

The only way to unravel the Ayodhya tangle is to shun any political, executive or judicial involvement — precisely what is being advocated by the Kanchi seer and by the Muslims of Faizabad-Ayodhya. Let us not be misled by the rabble-rousers, Hindu and Muslim, who have no religious or intellectual authority whatsoever to represent the laity; who number no more than a few thousand; yet who have held a nation of one billion hostage to their narrow-minded agendas for decades. Let us leave it to learned men and women of both faiths to sit together and agree on a simple way by which the country can finally discard the communal baggage of the past.

 

General ravings, Potshots

A discordant demonetized note

note-of-dissent
“You have your bank; I have mine!”

 

I admire Rahul Gandhi for standing up for his principled stand against demonetization.

Even if Rahul’s standing up lasted only 40 minutes.

I give Rahul G a salaam because on November 11th, the man actually made the effort to visit his bank and stand in queue to withdraw money.

It is true that the queue was ‘abolished’ as soon as Rahul turned up, as reported widely and vociferously in media [click here to read full story]. Indeed, it remains an enduring mystery as to what exactly ‘abolish’ meant. Equally, it remains a mystery as to why, if the queue was abolished, Rahul had to wait for 40 minutes to draw his money. In the absence of clarifications, we can only conclude that in the strong and persuasive hands of Rahul’s SPG security detail, the existing queue of suffering citizens underwent rapid, non-spontaneous disintegration and vanished, to be replaced by a queue comprising Rahul + 24 to 28 SPG personnel + a few select journalists. It probably took 40 minutes to complete this eviction-cum-sanitization-cum-queuing operation, including a few minutes for the bank officials to click their selfies with Rahul, and journalists to set up their cameras and mikes and things.

Cynical? A political stunt? Maybe.

But at least Rahul had the sensitivity to criticize the bank officers severely for abolishing the queue on his behalf and thereby adding to the sufferings of the poor whom he declared he represented, and had come to stand in solidarity with, by standing in queue. [I know that reasoning sounds a tad confused…but then, so does Rahul.]

Rahul may not know his Ps and Qs. But Rahul at least made his own queue…and stood in it.

To my diminutive and diminishing mind, that simple act alone qualifies Rahul to continue railing against demonetization for all he’s worth.

That’s much more than can be said of most other political leaders – be they from Left, Right or the non-existent Centre – who rant and rail for and/or against demonetization. With a few honourable exceptions, there is no knowledge in public domain to evidence that these Hon. leaders and affiliated riff-raff have stood in a bank queue once since November 8th. I wonder whether they have ever stood in a queue for anything at all, any time during their lives.

I would have expected all political parties to mobilize their multi-million strong cadres in organizing voluntary support services for the queuing masses during this trying period. Little things could have made such a huge difference: chairs and rugs for the elderly and frail to rest on; water to drink; chai and samosas and idlis to keep energy and spirits up. Instead, the netas and their slippery adherents have only advanced highly creative arguments, on TV and in print media, to explain that they have not gone anywhere near ATMs or banks since November 8thbecause they do not want to add to the burden of the poor, whom they represent!

By way of example, read the responses from two political leaders on their ‘bank/ATM experience’ during the cash crunch, as reported in Indian Express: [emphases mine]

  1. Sitaram Yechury, CPM:

“Just look at the line, even at the bank in Parliament. Though you are legally entitled to withdraw Rs 24,000, we don’t have the heart to go and draw currency from there…People say let us move out as an MP has come but we don’t feel like making them do that…”

[click here to read full story]

  1. Birender Singh, BJP (Union Steel Minister)

“I went to withdraw from the Parliament branch but on seeing the long queue I came back after entering…I could not tell them to give me cash out of turn…”

[click here to read full story]

So…Yechury and Singh sacrificed their ‘right’ to jump the queue! How noble of them. Did it strike them that they could have bravely joined the queue instead and waited their turn?

As to what I think of demonetization: well, the other day someone sent me a message – yet another one of those WhatsApp-driven campaigns ad nauseum – urging me to nominate Prime Minister Narendra Modi as ‘Person of the Year’ for launching his demonetizing initiative.

I responded by refusing, and suggested an alternate nominee for Person of the Year: a freelance carpenter—a daily-wager like me—with whom I’d stood in queue at a bank for close to two hours to draw money.  When I asked the carpenter what he thought of demonetization, he replied after deep thought:

Taqleef to hai. Lekin, hamare jaise aam log, gareeb log ke liye toh taqleef, is prakaar lamba line me khada hona, har roz ki baat hai. Yeh pehle baar hum dekh rahe hain  jab ameer log aur saale haraam zaade @@#%$&&* do number paise waalon ko bhi taqleef ho raha hai! Isse main khush hoon!”

[“Of course it’s hard. But then, for people like me, for poor people, hardships like standing in long queues are routine; they are part of our daily lives. This is the first time we see that the wealthy too, especially those bastards, the @@#%$&&* black money hoarders,  are facing hardships. This makes me happy.”]

I would not dare claim that I understand, or have experienced, even a tiny fraction of the agonies and indignities, the hardships that fill the daily lives of the several hundred million Indians less fortunate than me; hardships that are a bleak reality for them from birth to death.

But I can proudly declare this much: I am very used to standing in queues.

And so, I stand in solidarity with that carpenter…and echo his views on demonetization, down to the ionizing expletives.

Jai hind.

General ravings, Potshots

Why I trust Pakistani media more than Indian Media

I am beginning to trust the Pakistani media more than our own.

I hear distant howls of protest. The howls are presently followed by yips and snarls, suggesting that I am, in praising Pakistani media, placing my nationalistic credentials in doubt because (according to the yippers and snarlers) the Pakistani media finds nothing good whatsoever to say about Indians and India and is in fact biased against India and obsessed with reportage on Indian evils and stupidities.

I bark back cordially, citing in my defense incontrovertible evidence in public domain (in the shape of every Indian 24/7 TV news channel and every Indian newspaper) that our own Indian media too finds nothing good whatsoever to say about Indians and India and is in fact biased against India and obsessed with reportage on Indian evils and stupidities – even more so than Pakistani media.

Pakistan’s media is better than our own, because at least it tables the hard evidence to support its views on the  idiocies and crimes of Indians.  We are then able to examine that evidence ourselves, and accept or dismiss its worth. In sharp and unpleasant contrast, our very own ‘free’ Indian media rarely provides us with the hard evidence on which we can form our own opinions. Instead, it views and judges the evidence on our behalf (sans our invitation!)…and then, based on its own judgment, proceeds to pontificate, preach or otherwise editorialize on its own views on the matter without showing us the evidence till we rip the newspaper to shreds in rage (thereby depriving ourselves of 0.04 rupees we might have got from the kabadiwallah); or (horror of horrors) we are driven insane and meet a ghastly end staring, zombie-like, at the TV screen whence the shrieks of Arnab Goswami’s News Hour emanate and echo off the walls…

By way of example, consider the curious Indian Express front-page report on Ashoka University on 13th October, 2016 [click here] followed by an editorial on the subject on 17th October 2016 [click here].

Curious, because it raises a huge hue and cry over the ‘sudden resignation’ of two faculty members (unnamed) of Ashoka University. The Indian Express suggests the resignation is not a resignation but a sacking, allegedly over an online petition on (you guessed it) Kashmir violence that the two faculty members allegedly signed with 80-odd Ashoka University students.

Curious, because while the Indian Express headline suggested that this is something that had just happened, a patient reading of the story through to the inner pages revealed that the petition had in fact been written and posted online in July 2016—that is, nearly three months earlier.

Three months… imagine that.

Curious, that the Indian Express and the rest of Indian media (well, at least the few newspapers like The Hindu that picked up the story) suddenly woke up to the existence of this curious online petition three months after it was posted.

I know people complain about how slow Internet speeds are in India…but surely the ISPs that cater to Indian Express et al. can’t be that slow? Could this be another dastardly plot by the Modi-led NDA government to stifle the freedom of the press?

Less bandwidth, more banned wit?

I was curious to find out more. Curious about why I had never heard of this three-month-old petition. Curious also to read it; surely it had to be really incendiary for someone to be sacked for it – if only three months later? The Indian Express editorial of 17th October called it ‘rather strongly worded’; that only whetted my curiosity.

But even curiouser, in fact absolutely the most ek dum zyaada curious of all (curiousestest, perhaps?), I couldn’t find the petition on the website of any Indian newspaper.

Indeed, not a single Indian media house – neither print nor unprintable – had or has published the contents of the curious petition. Even the online forum where it had originally been posted – kafila.org – was ‘temporarily unavailable’, and has been so for 10 days now.

Which means, We the Wee People of India cannot read the petition via our own media and judge for ourselves as to whether it is worth bothering about.

I had to hunt the petition down on Pakistani media.

And that’s why I think the Pakistani media – indeed its reporters and journalists – are far more honest and transparent, perhaps even more courageous, than our own.

Here is the petition, copied and pasted from Daily Pakistan’s website: [posted there on 28th July 2016!]

https://en.dailypakistan.com.pk/world/ashoka-university-students-demand-for-plebiscite-in-kashmir/).

[QUOTE]

To

The Govt of India and the Govt of Jammu and Kashmir

We, the undersigned—current students, alumni of the Young India Fellowship of Ashoka University—write to voice our deepest anguish and grave concern at the violent turn of events in Kashmir in the past few days.

The violence perpetrated by the Indian State after the extra-judicial execution  of 22-year old Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani  is highly condemnable. The Indian Army, Kashmir Police and other task forces have reacted violently with bullets, pellets and lathis in the clashes that erupted after Burhan’s funeral. This was immediately followed by many more protests and demonstrations as part of Kashmiri resistance to the military occupation of Kashmir by the Indian State.

In the violent repression of the protests which had a huge ground support (evident from the large attendance to Burhan’s funeral) , 55 civilians  have been killed and around 3100 people  were severely injured by the pellets , lathis and bullets, some of whom have lost their eyesight.

We, unequivocally, condemn this brutal use of force by the Indian State in dealing with the protests after the killing of Burhan Wani.

Several patients with injuries preferred not to get admitted in the hospital as the Police and CRPF have arrested some patients from the SMHS Hospital Casualty ward.

The armed forces were seen attacking hospitals and ambulances and stopping people going to funeral processions.

Consequently, alarming images of police, army and task force brutalities against women, children and youth have surfaced on social media.

We condemn the inhuman treatment meted out to the patients and the injured at the hands of the armed forces and the police.

At the same time, partial and prejudiced reportage by the jingoist national media is becoming the basis for racism, regionalism and religious intolerance among many Indians who are not afraid to bully Kashmiris and other minorities.

We condemn the grossly irresponsible way in which news channels reported about the on-going spate of violence playing to the majoritarian nationalist sentiments’ in a rush to increase their TRP’s and we appeal to them to report the ground realities, pain and agony of the Kashmiris.

The region is under a complete blackout with all modes of communication and transport blocked. The Valley has been under curfew for the past 14 days and it is still being enforced at the time of the writing of this letter.

Internet and mobile services have been completely cut-off for over nine days now. There are also reports of electricity and water supply cuts in some parts of the state. Newspaper offices of Kashmir Times and Rising Kashmir were attacked by police and its employees arrested and its copies seized.

The attack on freedom of the press is a part of the tactics of the repressive mechanism of the Indian state to contain popular mass unrest in the valley.

This is not a one off incident as similar methods of intimidating and gagging the press have been employed by the government and its security agencies in the last two and a half decades.

This is a complete breakdown of law and order machinery as the institutions which are supposed to maintain peace, law and order are responsible for the lack of same.

We demand the immediate restoration of communication and transport facilities in the valley and appeal to the Govt. to end the curfew too.

The Indian state is inflicting all these atrocities on the Kashmiris in the name of Indians. We believe that the time has come when we protest the human right abuses and violations being carried out in our name by the Indian State. The following are our two pronged demands to the Indian Government:

Demilitarise Kashmir: Kashmir is the world’s most densely militarized colony with over 700000 military, paramilitary and militarized police.

We demand that Army is withdrawn from civilian areas in the Valley and not to use the Army for maintaining regular law and order. We also appeal to the Indian State to confine the job of the army to just the ‘borders’.

We also demand that colonial laws like AFSPA and Public Safety Acts should be repealed keeping in view their draconian nature and the history of human right abuses they have been responsible for.

Conduct A Plebiscite: A plebiscite was promised to Kashmiris as early as 1948 by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India in a white paper released by the Govt. of India.

We demand that this promise of Indian State to the Kashmiris is honoured and a plebiscite should be conducted in the next two years in both the ‘Kashmirs’, the Indian Occupied Kashmir and the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

We believe that the Self Determination right of the Kashmiris is an inalienable right. We demand the Indian state to retreat from Kashmir, and let the Kashmiris decide their future and sovereignty.

University Students and Alumni

[UNQUOTE]

Having read the petition, I think the ’80-odd’ students and faculty who signed this are just that: 80 odd people. Perhaps they are distinctly odd people. A few might even be jackasses. But I’m convinced they are harmless.

But that’s only my opinion. You have every right to form your own opinion. We all do.

Why couldn’t the Indian Express – and the rest of our media – just have published this petition?  And then left it to us to decide whether it is something worth fighting for in the name of upholding ‘liberalism’ (as Indian Express argued ad nauseum in its editorial) or whether (as I believe) it is merely a small, slightly fetid but harmless piece of organic fertilizer rendered in 12-point serif font?

No-one will tell me…there’s no-one to ask.

But now a thought strikes me: don’t our TV channels blip out even the most natural, light-hearted references to acts of sex (Aiyo Rama) or ablutions (Chee Chee Gandha), don’t they blur out even the slightest flashes of skin (male, female or otherwise) above the knee or below the neck, from old TV reruns like Seinfeld? That ‘70s show? Mr Bean, for God’s sake!?

The Indian government hasn’t asked the TV channels to censor these shows; or else surely we would have heard about it!

It’s pretty obvious our media is censoring what we get to see and read…of its own volition.

Today I asked my newspaper vendor whether he could get me Dawn or Daily Pakistan on a regular basis. He said he’ll ask around…but from the way he casually asked me whether I know much about miniature electronics and whether I can drive a truck, I doubt he will.

I’m joking, of course. Sorry to tax your patience…I could go on and on, but it’s nearly 9 p.m. Got to go.

Don’t want to miss Arnab.

Jai Pakistani media. Hai Hai Indian media!

Jai Hind.