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

Warning

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…

bajrang-dal-celebrates-belan-daine-din
Bajtrang Dal celebrate Valentine’s Day, 2017

Belan Daine Din ke Shubhkamnaye!

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.

Musings, Potshots

The chortle of the mosquito

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

fogged-out-by-aap
“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).

delhi-pollution-exposing-the-lie
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.

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.

Potshots, Verse perverse

Rahul Gandhi’s Farewell Song

[Sing to the tune ofLeaving on a jet plane’ – with apologies to the estates of John Denver and Peter, Paul and Mary; click here to hear the original song]

Rahul's tweet
With a tweet little tweet on 20th June 2016, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi announced his departure on a ‘short visit’

All my bags are packed
I’m ready to go
Congress toadies weep outside my door
It’s time to say, Ciao India – Good luck!  Goodbye!

For the Lok Sabha session
Will soon be on
Modi’s gang is waitin’
To take me on
But they won’t find me! Let them try
Let them cry…

Rahul pines on vacation
Ask not for whom Rahul pines/ He pines for you and me

They’ll miss me by miles, you’ll see
No one knows where I’m gonna be
I’ll be having a blast, that’s for sure!

‘Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
Doin’ my disappearing act again
Oh Ciao my Congress! It’s such a joy to go

There are so many places I’ve found

To bask in, revel in, laze around
But I tell you now, although they bring a zing
Ev’ry place I go, I’ll think of you
Ev’ry song I sing, I’ll sing for you
When I come back, I’ll bring you a little bling

So miss me, Storm the Well for me
Tell me that you’ll Walk Out for me
Extol me like you’ll never let me go

‘Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
Doin’ my disappearing act again
Oh Ciao India! it’s such a joy to go…

[Refrain]

 

 

 

 

Musings, Potshots

Behold! The Banyan in the Lotus

A shady analogy for a shady party?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said a curious thing on 20th March 2016, while addressing the BJP National Executive . [click here to read the full report on what Modi said that day].

Modi called on his party members and workers to view the BJP party like a ‘big banyan tree that provides shade to all kinds of people

It’s a curious analogy: the BJP as a banyan tree?

Banyan Lotus TreeNow, before going further, it’s important for me to state right away that as a true Nationalistic and Patriotic Indian I have nothing but love for all banyan trees, irrespective of their class, caste, religion or race. I am aware that the banyan is the National Tree of India. It is a place of honour well deserved, and derived primarily from the banyan’s profusion across the country, its robustness and ability to thrive in rugged soils and survive hard climes, and its sheer awe-inspiring size and capacity to provide shade to huge numbers of people at a time.

This disclaimer re. the National Tree is important in this day and age, when everyone, from professional politicians to professors professing politics, is obsessing at shriek-level on main-scream media over the profound question of what one can, cannot, or need not say to prove that one is Nationalistic and Patriotic.

But still, I think it’s curious to liken the banyan to the BJP, a political party.

For one, it’s common knowledge that the banyan allows nothing else to grow in its shade; not even a blade of grass. The only thing that grows beneath a banyan is the banyan itself; for, as it grows, the banyan puts innumerable aerial roots down, and in time these roots themselves grow thick as trunks…and so a single banyan extends itself laterally, often covering many thousands of square metres in area.   And nothing else grows in that area.

Besides, the banyan bears no fruit – at least, none that we humans can eat. It also has a well-known propensity to attach itself to a host tree and grow around it till it eventually strangles the host – for which reason the banyan is also called the ‘strangler fig’.

And it is precisely because of these characteristics of the banyan that ancient Indian tradition – over which, curiously enough, the BJP claims sole copyright – while venerating the banyan tree or Vata Vriksha,  also associates the banyan tree with unfriendly spirits and ghosts…and with  Yama, the God of Death.

Actually, on reflection, Modi’s analogy might fit the BJP well.

In fact, the analogy might fit not only the BJP but all our political parties – Left, Right and Congress – to a tee.

Or rather, to a banian, if not a banyan.

Jai Hind! Jai Banyan!