Congress’ Amorous Campaign, 2019

Let us rejoice! For the Congress promises to bring us a brighter, more loving future in 2019:

When Rahul Gandhi conquers the Sangh Parivar

With his boundless love, and assumes power

A leading newspaper columnist has revealed that the Congress Party is planning to make Rahul Gandhi’s hugging of Prime Minister Modi a center piece of its 2019 general elections campaign.[click here to read report, or go to https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/inside-track-hug-vs-slug-5281082/]

Rahul's boundless love
Rahul’s boundless love

The idea of a Congress Love Campaign fills us with delight.

Almost as much delight as Prime Minister Modi must have felt in the Lok Sabha that fateful July day, when, after Rahul delivered a passionate speech that blended incoherence, irrelevance and insolence in the proportion of 40:30:30, the youthful 49-year old Congress president suddenly and unexpectedly announced in ringing tones his boundless love for all humanity, including even Modi; declared his resolve to convert all Indians, including even the BJP members, to become loving Congress acolytes; galloped across the hall, stood over the bewildered Modi and commanded him to rise and receive his (Rahul’s) hug; and when Modi failed to oblige, bent down and clasped the PM, unasked, in a strong and presumably loving embrace.

We witnessed it live, gentle reader.

We choked; we nearly wept; so overcome were we with mirth.

We respectfully urge Rahul and the Congress to build on Rahul’s infantile performance, and to focus their electoral love campaign on mobilizing the young voters of tomorrow—the younger, the better!

With this principle in mind, we offer the following visual as our humble contribution to the Congress creative team’s ’ efforts. A small baby step that, we hope, will enable Rahul to assume charge of India and spread his message of Universal Love and Hugs.

Congress campaign ad 2019
Possible poster for Congress’ 2019 campaign: Catch ’em young! 

Hail jhappi-pappi!

Jai hind.


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


 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.


Musings, Potshots

Presidential Broad-Caste and our Caste-Ironed Media

The ugly, cruel media brouhaha over who will be the next ‘Dalit’ President of India, Ram Nath Kovind or  Meira Kumar, brings to mind two anecdotes:

  • When Dr. Zakir Husain became the President of India, a journalist asked him – Was it not the victory of secularism in the country that a Muslim had become the President? Dr. Zakir Husain replied – “I would have been very happy if you had not mentioned my religion. It is because of the beauty of our Constitution where every citizen is equal that I have become the president.”
  • A famous pianist accidentally bruised his finger severely minutes before a major performance. Despite his heavily bandaged finger and pain, he insisted on playing as scheduled. The Master of Ceremonies was aghast. Having failed to dissuade the pianist from performing, he sought permission to inform the audience about the accident, and that the maestro would perform nevertheless. “You shall do nothing of the sort!” cried the maestro. “Why, tonight I might perform better than I ever have or ever shall in my life…yet, remembering your words, the people in the hall will shake their heads and look at one another and say: ‘The maestro played quite well tonightalas, if only he hadn’t injured his finger, how much better his performance might have been!’ No, no, I shall play to minds unclouded by irrelevant sympathies for my finger!” And so he did. The performance was brilliant.

Consider, gentle reader, the case of Ram Nath Kovind, nominated for the post of President of India by the ruling NDA government. The entire Indian media sees Kovind as nothing more than a ‘Dalit’; indeed, barring a precious few noble exceptions, our journalists see Kovind’s nomination as being based on this single loathsome argument: by nominating Kovind the Dalit, the BJP-led NDA is assuring itself of Dalit votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Worse, the media couches its twisted presentations in the enervating, patronizing gobbledygook of political correctness. One example is an editorial which brightly suggests that there is ‘rich symbolism’ in the prospect of a Dalit president [click here to read]. Such an outlook views every Indian through the narrow, warped lenses of caste, religion, ethnicity, language—lenses that are selected and discarded as per convenience and context to make this or that argument. It is this very vision that fractures Indians into thousands of mutually hostile social groupings; that continues to prevent the Dalit from ever shedding his/her ‘Dalit identity’ (our intellectuals have even coined a term for this: ‘dalitness’); that indeed drove Rohith Vemula, the student from University of Hyderabad,  to take his own life in despair.

When K R Narayanan, and later  APJ Abdul Kalam, assumed the office of President, great swathes of us ‘educated, urbane’ Indians did not, or could not, recognize or celebrate the fact that these were self-made men of humble origins, who were supremely qualified for the highest office because of their humaneness, moral fibre, formidable intellects and scholarly achievements. All we saw was that a ‘Dalit’ and ‘a Muslim’  had become President! And thus we diminished them. …as we now diminish Kovind.

As we now diminish Meira Kumar, nominated by the Opposition against Kovind.

Thus do we diminish, degrade ourselves.

Can you spot the Muslim Hindu Brahmin ST SC OBC
Can you spot the Muslim? the Hindu? the Brahmin? the Dalit?

This narrow-minded vision of humanity has cursed India and its populace for thousands of years; like a long-lived radioactive poison, it has spread across the country, seeped into our educational policies, our political and governance structures, our minds, our deeds. The only cure is incredibly simple: to awaken to, and accept, the simple, scientific truth that beneath our many-hued skins and assumed symbols of religious, caste, and other forms of social exclusivity, we are all simply and equally human. It is a truth that frightens the hell out of the bigots among us, the casteists, communalists, racists. But it brings incredible joy…for we truly then see the One in All, and All in One.

Nothing religious about that, no?



Beastly encounters, Musings, Potshots

A coffee bean’s trauma (or, Nightmare on Dung Street)

Feverish insights into the goodness of dung and the oneness of all living things


A week or so ago,  a great Indian thinker—the Hon. Mahesh Chandra Sharma, recently retired judge of Rajasthan High Court—provided new and wondrous insights into the Divine Attributes of the Indian Cow [click here to read full report].  We were enthralled, delighted, by his revelations; we were eager to believe.

Alas, many highly ill-reputed intellectuals in India and abroad greeted Hon. Sharma’s revelations with amusement, skepticism, and even scorn. Our belief was shattered.

Was Sharma-jee wrong?

Is the bovine no divine but a mere mortal?

These and other weighty  questions kept us tossing restlessly in bed night after night, till we resolved to seek wise counsel from one of the world’s leaders in bovine research: Dr Pashupalan Moosa, Senior Director at  the Indian Cow Research Institute (ICRI), Gurgaon and  Head of the Product Innovations, Design & Development Labs (PIDDL), located in the sprawling 1400-acre campus of ICRI.

We met Dr Moosa in his spotlessly clean lab-cum-office. He was a curly-haired, bespectacled gentleman of about sixty-five, wearing a white lab coat and the placid expression of the Indian water buffalo. On the wall behind his desk was a fetching portrait of Kamadhenu, the Celestial Cow. Dr Moosa bade us sit and poured out two cups of black coffee from a large percolator. We accepted a cup gratefully and took a sip. The coffee was excellent: just the right warmth, strong yet not bitter, heady in fragrance, with a kind of wild, mossy, moist flavour that evoked the freshness of rain forests.

“We have ten minutes,” Dr Moosa murmured.

“Sir,” we began hesitantly, “the Hon. Mahesh Chandra Sharma has provoked considerable mirth and wrath with his claims that the cow is a divine creature. As a leading expert in bovine sciences, what do you make of his statements?”

“Of course Sharma is right: the cow is divine,” Dr Moosa murmured. “Just as you are divine! As indeed is a tapeworm, an ant, a chicken, a tick, a bacterium, a cuttlefish!” He leaned forward, warming to his theme.  “Listen: all living creatures on Earth are made of the same genetic stuff. Whether we are bacteria or Bactrian camels, conger eels or Congressmen, capuchin monkeys or capitalists, Komodo dragons or communists, giraffes or jihadists, all of us share the same DNA and RNA at the cellular level. We are all, at the core, truly One—whether we like the idea or not. All living things have spawned and evolved in the same great river of the Genetic Code, which some people call God by various names and others simply call names. So why should we exclude the poor bovine from this all-embracing divine realm?”

He was being a tad evasive, of course; but we were so awestruck by the potency of his words and his coffee that we let it pass. “All right, sir…but what about Sharma-jee’s other claims? For instance, he declares that a cow inhales as well as exhales oxygen! What kind of respiration is that, sir? It flies in the face of science!”

“Not at all,” said our colleague gently. “Haven’t you heard of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation?  It works because you can actually exhale part of the oxygen you inhale. So…it’s not only the cow that can inhale and exhale oxygen: we all can!”

“But…Hon. Sharma also quotes some obscure research by some untraceable Russian scientist named Shirovich to claim that a cow’s bellows can kill germs in the vicinity! Surely that’s absurd enough to make a buffalo laugh?”

Our learned colleague chuckled. “Well, first the point about a cow’s bellows killing germs. Here too Sharma is factually correct. It’s the media that’s got the story wrong! The media has misinterpreted the word ‘bellows’ to mean the sound a cow makes with its mouth, and ended up looking at the wrong end of the cow…um…pipe. You see, a cow does not bellow; it moos. By ‘bellows’, Sharma is referring to the simple, age-old mechanical device used for squeezing out gas from a bag at high pressure. Now, it is an established fact that a cow…er… squeezes out more than 60 litres of methane and other gases daily from its stomach bag – a direct result of its grassy, high-protein diet.  Think of it: 60 litres! Forget germs, no living creature can possibly survive such saturation bombardment by the highly aromatic emissions from a cow—not even an elephant that’s lost its sense of smell!” Dr Moosa paused and looked at us keenly. “If you like, I can take you across to PIDDL’s integrated cattle shed complex; you’ll vividly appreciate the point when we’re half-a-kilometre away.”

“There’s no need for that, sir!” we assured him hastily. “But then, what about this Shirovich, the Russian bovine scientist that Hon. Sharma referred to? He’s untraceable! We’ve hunted for Shirovich and his purported work on the Net, in libraries…but to no avail.”

Dr Moosa shook his head sadly. “I have no doubts at all that this Shirovich exists or existed, and that his work is authentic. My guess is that Shirovich must have quietly succumbed to an excess intake of bovine emissions while undertaking some long-term experiment, doubtless in some remote bovine lab in Siberia or the Ural Mountains where his demise went unnoticed. That’s why he is untraceable, poor fellow: a great loss to the scientific world.”  He sighed and refilled our cups with steaming coffee.

We fought off the feeling of unreality that was slowly enveloping us. “There’s also been a lot of unkind comment in social media over other things Hon. Sharma said. Like, he says the cow is a clinic! And he goes on and on about the healing powers of cow urine and cow dung…”

“Of course he’s right!” broke in Dr Moosa.  “You must try and ignore the cackling of the hoi-polloi!”  He paused, reached into a desk drawer, took out a small dark-brown package wrapped in plastic and handed it to us.

“Behold!” he cried. “This is the latest product from the PIDDL stables…er…cattle pens. It’s pure, fresh cow dung, painstakingly collected by my team from cows that have grazed only in the ISO 9001:2008-certified organic pastures of PIDDL. We’ve enriched the dung with vitamins and minerals, added subtle flavours, and given it a catchy brand-name: ‘PIDDL Dung’!” His face was flushed with pride and enthusiasm. “PIDDL-Dung is now being marketed as a breakfast-food supplement in 114 countries, including USA, EU, UAE, Japan and Australia. It’s one of the greatest success stories of the Make in India initiative!”Grazing dream

“That’s amazing,” we whispered, holding the PIDDL-Dung package gingerly. “But why is it only being exported? Why aren’t you marketing it in India?”

Dr Moosa smiled tolerantly. “Our marketing team knows what it is doing. Indians will never embrace any traditional Indian product—until the West first embraces it. Now that other countries, particularly the West, have started consuming PIDDL-Dung by the ton, Indians will soon follow in droves!”

We tried to speak but only succeeded in making soft mooing noises.  On the wall, Kamadhenu twitched her tail and gave us an inquiring look.

“PIDDL-Dung comes in six flavours at present,” Dr Moosa went on. “This one’s chocolate-almond; please accept it as a gift!”

“Thanks, but sorry, sir,” we mumbled, placing the package down on the desk. “It’s just a little hard to stomach the idea of eating cow dung…”

Arre bhai!” he cried. “If you can eat sheep’s brains and goat’s gonads, if you can gobble up fish eggs and frog’s legs, if you can wolf down globs of pounded flesh stuffed into bags stitched from pig’s intestines in the name of sausages, why’s it so hard to savour some clean, tasty cow dung? Hahn-jee?”

His logic was irrefutable, yet hard to swallow. “But …but these are animal feces!” we protested feebly.

Dr Moosa relapsed into moody silence.  But after a moment he looked up and smiled. “Did you like the coffee? Would you like some more?”

“So kind of you, sir… the coffee’s really superb. But we’ve taken up enough of your time, thank you.” We rose, nodded at Kamadhenu who nodded back, and shook our host’s hand.  He walked with us to the door.

“This is Kopi Luwak coffee, you know,” he murmured as we reached the door.  “It’s from Indonesia. It’s the most expensive coffee in the world. A kilo costs anything from 1200 dollars to 3000 dollars, that’s two lakh rupees…”

We were stunned. “What’s in that coffee, gold?” we asked.

He chuckled. “No, it’s not gold.  Although curiously, gold is the word used by local Indonesians to describe the animal feces from which they get the coffee beans…”

We clutched the door for support. “What!”

“Yes…you see, the coffee beans are picked out from the feces of the Indonesian palm civet cat. This lovely animal likes eating coffee cherries. The cherries are digested, but the beans stay intact as they pass through the animal’s stomach and intestine. In the process they absorb certain unique flavours, and so when they emerge…”

Dr Moosa broke off and started to laugh at our horrified expression. It was an extraordinary laugh: not quite human, rather a series of shrill, persistent monotonic beeps that grew louder and louder. It was almost like the sound of a morning alarm…

Mercifully, it was.

Musings, Potshots

Desi Valentine

It is the eve of Valentine’s Day! An appropriate time, then, to dust off and (ignoring thy shrieks of despair and protest) inflict upon thee a learned essay I wrote 14 years ago on this ancient Indian festival of love [actually, a ‘middle’ in Times of India on February 6th 2002; still viewable, in garbled form, here]

Lovers can celebrate Valentine’s Day with a whole new fervour!

Recent studies by Indologists reveal that the roots of this festival, celebrated on February 14 each year, can be traced back to ancient India: specifically, to the Harappa civilization. It appears that the name itself is derived from belan din (rolling pin day), an occasion when the young Harappan woman put down her rolling pin and embraced her flower-bearing lover with flour-coated hands. Over the centuries, this name inevitably underwent change. at some stage the word daine (right) was added on, to emphasize the fact that the sensible woman held on to her belan with her right hand just so that her man did not get any funny ideas about decamping with some shameless hussy from Sumeria or Samarkand. The resulting belan daine din in due course became Valentine’s Day in the twisted tongue of the British colonialists.

However, as with all things Indian, this central theme gave rise to an amazing variety of subsidiary myths elsewhere in our country. For instance, in Maharashtra there are reasons to believe that the festival gets its name from the ubiquitous and much-loved bhelpuri. Wonderful indeed are the legends that tell of how, on this day many millennia ago, an ardent young Maratha lad gazed into his beloved’s eyes as she stirred the bhelpuri pot and whispered: bhel ani tumi which of course means “Bhel… and thou!” It was the ultimate expression of love.

The cow belt has a different version. In ancient times this day was an occasion for young men and women to jointly feed the community’s bullocks or bel with mounds of that green and tasteless vegetable known as tinda. How romantic bel tinda day must have been to those young wooers of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as they stood amidst the snorting beasts and watched them slurp down their victuals by the pail-full.

Bengal puts a totally different spin to the story. Tradition here has it that a beautiful young lass named Bela had to choose her mate on this day from three equally suitable suitors of the Dey clan. The tale ends in typically tragic fashion; unable to choose, Bela becomes a wandering songstress renowned for that immortal ditty to love, Bela teeni dey….

Most relevant to our troubled times, however, is the Tamil Nadu version. On this day, amorous Tamilian teenagers of yore greeted others with sweets and joyous cries of “Vellum tayen!” meaning, ”Give us some sugar!”. Naturally, ignorant Englishmen corrupted ‘tayen‘ to ‘tine’ and the whole thing became Valentine. But wait a minute:  a tine, as we know, is one of those pointed things a fork has; and a fork is but a trident by another name. And who do we associate most commonly with  tridents nowadays? The Bajrang Dal, of course!

Here, then, lies the key to ensuring happy and peaceful Valentine’s Day in the coming years. The Bajrang Dal, recognizing the festival’s intimate connections with the ancient traditions of India, will hereafter join in the Valentine’s Day celebrations, greeting one and all with succulent sweets, serenades and secular hymns…

Bajtrang Dal celebrate Valentine’s Day, 2017

Belan Daine Din ke Shubhkamnaye!

General ravings, Potshots

A discordant demonetized note

“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.

Musings, Potshots

The chortle of the mosquito

Is Delhi  a gas chamber because of  AAP’s foggy scheme to fog out mosquitoes ?

“For years they’ve been trying to fog us out…never knew they’d fog themselves in!”

Even as we gasp for breath in this Hell that passes for our beloved national Capital, a burning question troubles the remnants of the brain: who is responsible for replacing our air with this foggy, reeking cocktail of poisonous gases and microscopic dust particles that clouds the mind and sets the nose and eyes and lungs and throat ablaze?

The Hon. Arvind Kejriwal, our beloved Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader, proclaims from the confines of his air-conditioned chambers that the answer to this burning question lies with two groups of anti-social elements:

  • farmers in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana, who are burning the post-harvest crop stubble in their fields and blowing the smoke towards Delhi (using some mysterious technology that does not disturb the still air)
  • Delhi residents – most of them supporters of the Narendra Modi-led Union Government – who  lit fireworks on Diwali, 30th October.

Is Kejriwal right? The jury is still out.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that most of Kejriwal’s cabinet colleagues, too, are still out. Out of Delhi, that is; on overseas study tours, to learn from Peru and Macedonia, Nauru and Patagonia, how to better manage Delhi’s environmental and other problems.

In their absence, let’s try figure it out ourselves.

It is a fact that this year, Delhi’s air pollution levels – particularly the levels of the deadly ultra-fine dust (particulate matter) known as PM 2.5 – actually started rising sharply and steadily long before Diwali, from the third week of September onward,  till they were five times or more above safety levels by mid-October [click here to read more]. After spiking on Diwali night (predictably), the PM 2.5 levels fell sharply the next day (again, predictably).

From cseindia.org

But the weirdest thing this year is that, since 3rd November – that’s four days after Diwali – the PM 2.5 levels have again risen sharply…and they continue to rise. Scarily. Today (6th November), the PM 2.5 levels in Anand Vihar were 813 micrograms/cu.m. The maximum safe limit is 60 micrograms/cu.m….

What on earth is going on?

The facts are fraught; the numbers numb the senses; yet they together tell a telling tale that would make an Aedes Egyptii mosquito shiver as though it had malaria.

  • The third week of September always marks the end of the monsoon. Which means, after that there’s no more rain to  dissolve or bring down the dust and other muck we spew into the air. Naturally, we can expect air pollution to rise from end-September. And it does…every year.
  • Early October is the time winter starts to set in. With winter’s onset, a layer of cold (denser) air tends to hang above the City – and there’s no breeze to dissipate this cold air layer. So we can expect pollution to climb even higher during this period And it does…every year.
  • According to Delhi Traffic Police, Delhi has 9,634,976 registered vehicles [click here for details] – most all of them are on the City roads every day, burning diesel and petrol and CNG, and belching the hot, noxious gases and particulate products of combustion into the air around us. Naturally the air gets warmer with all these hot emissions…but the warm air can’t break through the heavier layer of cold air above the City.
  • So, we Delhiwallahs are trapped in a bubble of warm air, that’s trapped inside a larger bubble of cold air.
  • Naturally, the more  foul stuff we spew into our bubble of warm air, the fouler our air-bubble is going to get. Yet we’re doing just that, day after day, with our 9,000,000-plus vehicles. And we’re adding 50,000 new vehicles every month to the City! Oh, let’s not  forget to add  the mega-tonnes of toxic dust we spew into our air-bubble every day:  from our garbage-strewn roads, the gargantuan landfills, the mountains of clinker and ash from power plants, the thousands of under-construction flyovers, buildings, Metro projects… aaarrrggghhh!
  • As for Diwali…well, like with so many traditional festivals/observances, Diwali’s date is determined by the lunar calendar. By definition,  Diwali always falls between mid-October and mid-November— precisely when winter is setting in; precisely when pollution has already become awful. Of course Diwali fireworks spew huge amounts of PM 2.5—but they only add to the already-stupendous, ever-growing load of  pollution in the City’s air-bubble.

Given these facts, it’s not very fair, or very intelligent, for Kejriwal and affiliated AAP netas to blame Delhi’s polluted air on farmers in neighbouring states who are burning crop-stubble, or on Diwali fireworks.

By doing so, the AAP is being as fair, and as intelligent, as the US and  other developed countries who blame India and China and other developing countries for causing climate change. (For 200 years  the US et al.  burned humongous amounts of wood and coke and coal and oil  to power their ‘Industrial Revolutions’, filling the earth’s atmosphere with carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases till we reached the tipping point of irreversible climate change. And now, when China and India et al. are embarking on their own Industrial Revolution, the US and the others rant and rave about how we are  polluting the atmosphere and threatening the future of the earth!)

The harsh truth is, we Delhiwallahs have created the horror we’re breathing. And it’s just going to get worse and worse…until we reduce the number of vehicles on our roads, replace dirty vehicles by cleaner ones, halt the endless construction,  mend our garbage-spewing ways.

Yet, all is not grey and dismal. An unnameable and possibly non-existent IAS officer, recently shunted out by AAP from the Delhi Health Ministry, points out a silver lining in the hideous grey-brown cloud that envelops the Capital. “Cases of dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases have come down drastically in the past month,” he proclaims, in a voice slightly muffled by an N99 mask and No.120 zarda paan.

Great God Google reveals that the officer speaks the truth. Dengue cases have indeed fallen dramatically since the last week of September  [click here to read more].

But wait a minute…the last week of September is precisely  when Delhi’s air quality started to worsen.

It makes us wonder: could this mega-pollution of Delhi’s air actually be  a brilliant scheme by Kejriwal et al. to end the epidemic of dengue and chikungunya that has given the AAP such an AAPalling reputation? Has the AAP government  deliberately ignored the air pollution problem? So that it can get rid  of mosquito-borne diseases by getting rid of the mosquitoes themselves? By fogging the mosquitoes (and in the process, us) to death?

We ran our theory past the IAS officer. His response, delivered from the left corner of his N99 mask, was fluid and swift: a scarlet arc of paan juice that missed us by millimeters. It was followed by a torrent of crimson abuse against the AAP, and ended with an Urdu couplet, slightly modified from Allama Iqbal’s original: a couplet so beautiful and AAPt…er…apt, that we humbly present it here with rough translation:

Raat Machar Ne Keh Diya Mujh Se
Majra Apni Na-Tamami Ka

“Mujh Ko Dete Hain Aik Boond Lahoo
Sila Shab Bhar Ki Tashna Kaami Ka

Aur Ye Be-Wakoof Be-Zehmat
Pe Gya Sub Lahoo Aam Aadmi Ka

 Last night the mosquito related to me
The tale, in full, of her misery:

“They give me only one drop of blood
In return for my full night’s labour

While, without any toil, these asses
Suck the entire blood of the masses!”


Jai hind.