Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Movie Script - Reinforcing Stereotypes

Read this movie script

Most of the time movie scripts are written by people who don't know a community as well as they should. The above seems a case of the writer not being able to understand the basics of the community he/she is writing about and depending only upon stereotypes instead of going out and conducting some research.

I guess most Indian scripts reflect this trend. The script writer goes by popular (or, for that matter a stereotype confined to his immediate friends and community) stereotype and builds the plot and story. In the above script a man is named "Sally" when that is the name usually given to a woman (as in Harry Meets Sally). 

Thus the man wearing suspenders and shorts and saying "Kya man, kayko kalipili bomabom karta hai" is a Christian, and a man who wears a sadra (sacred shirt) and says, "Kam karneko mangta hai ni?" is assumed to be a Parsi. 

Guess that's the only reason that prevented me from wearing suspenders. The fear of being thus stereotyped. Thus when the whole film is peopled by such characters the effect is one of a feeling of alienation, of the bitter bile rising instead of being entertained. I walk out from movies where such stereotypes abound.

What to do, we are like this only no?

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Corruption of the Soul and Leslie Nielsen R.I.P.

In this world where everybody is a broadcasting unit and a newspaper - watch those tweets on twitter and you will know what I mean - is it any surprise that getting another's attention is like asking a bull terrier to read a newspaper. The terrier would, you know what. So let that be.
 
This being the age shouting out for recoginition; be it arts, music, writing, journalism, politics, social work: getting rewarded for your work is also a dicey business. "Hey, hey, look here I have done something great, I am that unique face." That's everybody's hype, not mine. But, most of them tend to be self motivated individuals out to get free publicity.
 
I am not quite the least bit surprised that even a literary meeting has to be sponsored by a business house. No, no, they aren't satisfied by sponsoring, they want their brands right alongside the headline of the arty affair. And why not, they are paying for it, aren't they? Soaps and deathless prose? Quite possible, this.
 
So is there an end to this corruption of the soul? Some respite for  the beleagured soul dazed by the extent of the graft of the imagination. It's so widespread that we don't realise until we proble deeper. I mean not probe like armchair sleuths do. Think about it in a meditative sort of way. Hm. Did that. What emerges? Imagine ones surprise when a media house revealed to this blogger that to enroll in their excellence awards one had to pay a heavy entrance fee. Imagine! 
 
By the way, Leslie Nielsen of spoofs like Naked Guns died last night. Leslie Nielsen R.I.P. Don't know how they do it but Wikipedia editors edit their articles in real time, so I think. When I referred to this article it already had updated about Nielsen's death. That's good work.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"To Sir with Shove" - Are Our Classrooms Breeding Hooligans

Sitting on my son's computer I attempt to play Max Payne, the computer game. I have nothing against games as far as it is intellectually stimulating. But what I saw was chilling. Max Payne is a detective and as he enters the hospital, he meets a nurse and without much ado he gathers her in his arms, lifts her up so her thighs are against his waist and kisses her. Duh! Without so much as a preamble, a pick-up line or a "Pleased to meet you Miss." Then while he is doing this a masked figure enters and shoots him. End of game. I lost. Damb!

I used to read Perry Mason, James Hadley Chase, and in those detective stories it was never like this. There were endless flirting and mating before the kiss actually happened. Are our children too smart for us. Or, are they being misled? Today's Crest has a several-page feature on how students are turning the table against teachers in class rooms. Go read. The opening feature is titled, "To Sir with Shove" parodying the sixties movie starring Sidney Poitier, "To Sir with Love". Who's Sidney Poitier, well, dear, never mind. With the abolition if corporeal punishment in schools we might be (pardon to be using the cliche, please!) sparing the rod and spoiling the child. Don't you think? 

Now according to new rules, missus who is a teacher informs me, no child fails in any standard up to Eighth in Maharashtra. That means no exams and you can do badly and go to the next standard. What kind of meritorious system are we breeding? It also means that the terror of exams that makes a student cram - and which will make him/her show a bit of self restraint - will no longer be applicable. Are we raising a legion of winners or a rank of stupid duds and hooligans? I would like to ask the education minister of Maharashtra.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Shobhaa De about Reality Shows

Here's our own Shobhaa De ranting about "Big Boss" and other reality shows. Among others she deals with Pamela Anderson's assets, woops, unique selling propositions. I like Shobhaa's writing, they are contemporary, reflect immediate urban angst, and she is quick on the uptake. She is like the Shakespeare of our morbid times. Well, um, in a manner of speaking.
 
I am not a big fan of reality shows, but have a passing interest in it as Ronnie is a big fan. I would rather watch Bachchan in Kaun Banega Crorepati (A rip off of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Bachchan has charm, presence of mind and to my mind he is the only star who has maintained his looks despite his age.). So it's no wonder that reality shows are actually unreal shows with manipulated results.
 
Are reality shows a passing phase in entertainment? I look forward to telling my grandchildren "There used to be um reality shows, once upon a time." There's another show called "Emotional Athyachar" which plumbs the very depths of human behavior. No, I won't tell this to my grandchildren. Really it is an emotional assault of the senses besides being the staple viewing of underdeveloped and ill-nourished minds. I would be grateful if more people migrated to online and the net. At least, there's greater variety there.
 
Or, am I being biased?

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Media Circus - Some Personal Impressions (My Own Work)

Seeing a flurry of outdoor broadcast vans in a locality, all focussed on cornering a certain news giver, I wonder how news has become so very one-sided and dependent on the news giver and not on independent investigation. This happened around Kitab Mahal a building I used to work in, in Raveline Street. (I don't remember the new name of this street, for me it will always be Raveline Street.) We see the same people come and give their opinions which aren't worth much, anyway. News isn't new anymore, it's stale sound bites from the official position of some official. And most often trial by media has become a reality. The media creates its own set of specialists and they in turn dominate the media. Instead of the media chasing stories these days the media chases personalities who can give sensational revelations exclusively to them. So they ask questions that can shock and even offend. I see great danger in this trend, which has been noticed by many media observers I have read in Outlook's annual issue on the media. 

For example if you have some news of social interest and would like to put it rationally chances are you will not be entertained. The odd person who walks into a newspaper to give news may not be given the cliche-ed shoulder to cry on. He/she may be rebuffed and told to scoot. Unless, unless, he/she turns out to be a celebrity or a moneyed person, that is. Today's news giver may be a person who is narrowly motivated by his/her own interest and not that of society at large. 

One manifestation may be the shrinking of reportage on legal cases - I am told the legal reporter's post has been abolished and has been taken over by the crime reporter. The foreign correspondent is unaffordable these days. The reporting on classical music and theater is virtually absent. The art reviewer is dead as a dodo. Television and radio coverage - once done by the inimitable Amita Malik (television presenters used to quake reading her biting criticism) - is also a big void. And what happened to the stringers who reported from rural areas? 

The alienation people feel about the media is complete when one reads about the doings of our celebrities. There I go again bitching about the media when I should be sleeping. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Another Train Accident - Witnessed This Morning - Another Statistic

A few anxious shouts, a flurry of activity, craning necks, the thunder of the electric train now changes to a metallic grinding sound, Eeeeeeeeeeeekkkk! "Whattappen? kya hua? Kay jhala?" The shouts echo in the narrow and cloistered CBD Belapur station.
 
I see a flash of blue piece of cloth disappearing into the tiny space between platform and rail. As with all accidents, the incident happens so fast, nobody can react, nor do they react. Too late! Seems the man was trying to cross the track to the opposite platform when the train came. Don't know what happened, whether he was killed, maimed, traumatised, as my train came on to the platform on the other side.
 
It says here that Bombay trains mow down ten people a day. That's 3650 people a year, or, perhaps, more. It's not a comfortable thought. This incident is another statistic, but for the family it means more - loss of a wage earner, a provided of grain (anna data), a father, a loving husband, a beloved son.
 
Should you take such risks?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

C.P.Surendran’s New Novel “Lost and Found” Launched in Bombay

Last Saturday was the Bombay launch of C.P.Surendran's novel "Lost and Found". Here are my impression, the little, little things the media will miss out on. After all blogging is about personalization, isn't it so? It was held at the BMB Art Gallery and there's an exhibition that goes with the reading highlighting passages from the novel. I spot Bose Krishnamachari, the artist, and Bachi Karkaria in the audience. C.P.'s being interviewed in a corner. The gallery is quite a nice place tucked into a niche in the Queens Mansion, it has a cafe, too.

C.P.Surendran at the launch of his second novel "Lost and Found" in Bombay.
Lilette Dubey, theatre personality, launched the book and read two excerpts but looked nonplussed when she didn't see a be-ribboned book to release.  She also needed a stand to hold the mike, "I can't hold a mike while reading." C.P. improvised by thrusting the mike into a glass tumbler and murmurs, "wonderful container, this glass."

Then she said, "the glamour goes and the glasses comes on," as she goes on to wear her glasses (a triple alliteration there, brilliant, I think. She should have been a writer, don't I think?). Then she begins to read and I realize why she is such a good actor. Her voice is fluent, practiced, full of emotional nuances. Heck, she is good. I sit back to enjoy the evening in the dull and muted glow of soft light and wine and probably one of our best writers of what is called Indian Writers in English, read by probably one of our best actors.

But the mike had to spoil it all. Gah! It went dead half way through. You know what happens, when it happens thusly. You feel as if you have woken from a dream. The reason might have been that since there wasn't a mike stand, and since it was thrust into a glass, the transmitting end of the mike ended inside the glass and the waves didn't transmit. Simple. However, it spoiled the show for me. I was asking myself several questions at once: Why couldn't a mike check have been done? Who was responsible? Shouldn't readings be taken more seriously?

Then C.P. read a passage of the book where the terrorists attack a restaurant (Leopold, I suppose). (C.P. apologies for his Mallu accent. You needn't do that, it wasn't that obvious, if you ask me. And, what's wrong with a Mallu accent? I flaunt it. A Maharashtrian doesn't apologise for his Mahu accent. Does he?) There's a starlet in there – the novel, I mean – who asks to be spared because she is going to act in a movie, a Salman movie. That's incredible and subtle dark humour in a serious novel dealing with the subject of terrorism. Reminds me of what C.P. said to me when he read my first – as yet unpublished – novel, "you need to be ironic."

Came question time and nobody is asking. C.P. says "John" and I ask something about if it is all about 26/11 or is there a love story.

"There are two love stories," he says.

"Two love stories?" Then I am going to read it after I put down the un-put-down-able "A House for Mr. Biswas" which I am currently gorging.

He is also of the view that Kasab should be reprieved. Twenty-sixth of November is only four days in the future and we Bombay-ites need to chew cud and smoke the peace pipe on this one. Don't forget the three days we all spent in our homes frightened to death.

"Congrats C.P., all the very best," I say after I get my copy autographed. I like him and his writing quite a lot. He is the only contemporary I know whose prose is didactic as well as well thought out and aimed at holding a critical mirror at our society. His is the voice of honesty and truth in a corrupt world. After I wrote my first novel and didn't know which way to look for fear of being ridiculed, C.P. was one among the few people who read and encouraged me.

The glitches apart, it was an enjoyable evening at the BMB Art Gallery. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pranksters Strike Apple Website

There are pranks and then there are internet pranksters. This time internet pranksters calling themselves "The Yes Men" put up a dummy Apple website where they launched the the iPhone 4CF. "CF" stands for conflict-free, and the site mentioned that the new phone was the same as the normal iPhone 4, only it didn't get its minerals from the conflict-ridden regions like the Democratic Republic of Congo. Apparently Congo exploits labour in its mines, whatever.

Hm.

Read more here. Apparently Apple wasn't amused and contacted the website host and cancelled their domain registration. Now I don't know who is right or who is wrong, copyright on the net being a vast grey area. But suffice it to say the pranksters might make a comeback from another site, this time around.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Arundhati Roy on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Military Occupation of Kashmir

Here's a video of Arundhati Roy speaking on nuclear nonproliferation, military occupation of Kashmir, India's colonial aspirations. She also speaks about Coca Cola, mosquito repellents, and fairness creams. Worth a watch.

This thing struck me a bit too late. Sorry, I couldn't include it in an earlier post regarding her secession speech. When Balgangadhar Tilak was tried for sedition and lost, he said:

"All that I wish to say is that, in spite of the verdict of the jury, I still maintain that I am innocent. There are higher powers that rule the destinies of men and nations; and I think, it may be the will of Providence that the cause I represent may be benefited more by my suffering than by my pen and tongue".

When I first read this, I was moved to tears. I still am. He was the first person who raised the banner of "Swarajya" and yet we conveniently forget his contribution and worship others. We need to be an open society that recognises the need to address people's needs and aspirations and while doing that have a better and longer memory, too. Guess, I will shut up on this. Finito!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Leh Needs Help!

Sometimes, sometimes, we think we are the only people with problems. Well, we think wrong. And, that happens all too often. Our problems override other considerations, we can't think beyond our own vexations. When we see a small dampness on our wall we scurry to get them repaired and corrected, but we don't think of people whose homes have been washed away by the rage of the rain gods. This year has been particularly bad. We had floods in most parts of India. It makes me apprehensive to think what the next year could hold. Worse, perhaps.

Got this link via Annie Zaidi's blog and it shows how the people of Leh are fighting to restore their lives after a cloudburst, one of many it seems. They live in camps because their homes are no more and the worst affected are children, who will ultimately suffer the repercussions of what we conceive in our greed and lust. In here there's no repentance only a crude justice handed out by nature. We can't repent for our sins to nature and be absolved. Nature's anger will never be assuaged.

So contribute to the NGOs that are helping the homeless and dispossessed of one of the highest areas in the world.

Labour Camp for Tweeting: Charge, Angry Youth!

Read this in the gossip-cum-tech blog Valley wag that a Chinese woman has been sentenced to hard labour in a labour camp for a Tweet. And, what did she say, you ask? Here it is:

"Charge, angry youth!" 

Uh-oh! Chen Jianping innocently retweeted something her fiance said about anti-Japan protests getting violent, and added, "Charge, angry youth!" which is what had the authorities crying foul. Twitter is banned in China, but it is easy to get around the ban by using proxy site, there are a lot of them around (google proxy sites).

Thank the Lord for small mercies! Here, in India I mean to say.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch - Growing, Growing Every Day

Ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? If not read here about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP).It's also described as the Pacific Trash Vortex, and is a huge vortex of plastic in the North Pacific Ocean and is growing at a frightening pace!

It's composed of the plastic you carelessly discard into the drain and which gets washed into the sea. Then it is sucked and churned into the GPGP where it will remain for thousands of years. Says Chris Parry, public education program manager with the California Coastal Commission in San Francisco:

"At this point, cleaning it up isn't an option," Parry said. "It's just going to get bigger as our reliance on plastics continues. ... The long-term solution is to stop producing as much plastic products at home and change our consumption habits."

Dispose plastic into bins from where you are sure it will be recycled. A better idea would be to stop using plastic once and for all. How about it?

Hat tips to fellow blogger Lisa Lubin for the links and initial information.

Friday, November 19, 2010

An Endless Procession of Scams and Revelations

I am sick and tired of this scam business. It's sickening and tiring. There seems to be no respite, an unending stream of scams and scamsters. 

So how does it feel to reel from one scam to the other? Consider the following:


I am reeling. I am flummoxed. I am disturbed and angry. I feel so small and insignificant considering the magnitude of the scam (After all, where am I scrounging for a pittance while there is looting up above me?).They say the scam is so big that it is equivalent to 15 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country. This proves that this country is being ruled by tyranny rather than rule of law. And most of our estates are involved in making a fool of you and me. 

And now to add a bit of embarrassment to the scribbling community comes the revelation that two top and well respected members of this community were involved with the lobbyist who midwifed the deal. What am I hearing? A senior minister is involved. 

Open magazine has exposed it here, but if you visit the website now you won't be able to. It has crashed under the pressure of millions of hits. So has this clarification from NDTV where one of the journalists mentioned works. Hm.

It also throws up issues about online media. What happens when there is an expose and the website receives a lot of hits. It would help their popularity, all right. But, what use is it if their servers crash?



Thursday, November 18, 2010

Samir Crying on Big Boss

It's really sad to see Samir crying on Big Boss. I don't know why because I don't see it regularly. There must be a reason. Would someone ask him why he is so turned off by the reality show? I am sure there is a reason for his stubborn-ness. If then what? Let it be know, man, let people know. Were the inmates unkind? Did they spread rumours? Did they call you a wimp? What? I like the guy and can't for the life of me understand why he is crying. One word from you, maybe calling this "reality" stuff: sham, made-up, fake would give so much peace and I-told-you-so to my poor heart.

Come on, speak, man, speak....

Trivia about Global Warming

Apologies, didn't blog for two days since we had guests and I don't want to blog at the cost of ignoring people who are dear to me.

The past two days have been oppressively warm. I was in a train on the way to work and people are definitely discomfited and are showing it. This gives rise to frequent fights. Heard of "train rage"? No? You may not have, because I just coined it. Though they say "boss," "friend" and "bhai" actually they have murder on their minds. Yes, I know the mentality of these fellow commuters. I know how much pain they endure. Many are bearing injuries, torn ligaments, dislocated shoulders, etc., as a result of their commuting. This is made worse by the heat.

The local train in Bombay is a curious creation of man. Really, it is. It holds around 2000 where the capacity it can hold is 200 or less. Just imagine 2000 people standing silently in a train hurtling along on the tracks at 150 kms per hour. That too with ones elbow on another's nose and body contorted in the shape of a Natraja. No wonder Indians have such bulging stomachs. Actually a bulging stomach is not a sign of prosperity - as some of my countrymen believe - it's only that the chest and shoulders are squeezed so much that all the flesh collects around the waist. Really, it is so.
 
Imagine what if a tin-pot dictator crazed by the heat, lets loose a war. Wars have been caused by trivial things you and I can't imagine as being worth fighting for. We regularly ignore those war cries uttered inside steaming train compartments as so much gas. But this tin pot dictator, the sort who wears his military uniform to bed and keeps an AK 47 below his pillow, is different. Imagine if the war escalates into a world war. What then? This is from a site that features information on global warming called global warming:

"The gases append to the planet's normal greenhouse effect, permitting sunlight in, but stopping some of the ensuing heat from radiating back to space. Based on the study on past climate shifts, notes of current situations, and computer simulations, many climate scientists say that lacking of big curbs in greenhouse gas discharges, the 21st century might see temperatures rise of about 3 to 8 degrees, climate patterns piercingly shift, ice sheets contract and seas rise several feet. With the probable exemption of one more world war, a huge asteroid, or a fatal plague, global warming may be the only most danger to our planet earth."

Imagine (I guess this is my favorite word on this blog)! This century could see temperatures rise by 3 to 8 degrees. What then will we do? I am resigned to there being more fights in the train compartments for one. Sigh!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fashion Gone Haywire?

Right this day and age I am witnessing two instances of fashion gone haywire:

One

A rather obese woman is wearing a short kurta that stops just about her waist with tights below it. Imagine! All her bulges are visibly jiggling as she waddles on her way to work. Fashion gone haywire, don't you think? Has fashion nothing to do with functionality?

Two

A guy is wearing absurdly pointed shoes below a boldly patterned pair of jeans (creased on the side, of course). Because of the crease on the side the jeans looks grotesquely flat and bunched up at the feet. The shoes are so pointed that it juts around half a foot in front of his feet and then curves up in a big swoop. It's amusing to see him walk in this absurd accessory he calls shoes. It looks as if he is paddling with flippers attached to his feet in the sea. Yes, he is aware of this absurdity, but seems nonchalant. 

Fashion gone haywire? Can someone point out these absurdities to these two individuals? 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

List Your Favorite Authors - First 15 of Them

Shankari has tagged me for my list of favorite authors. I am supposed to list fifteen of them in as many minutes. Guess blogging is also about community and tagging. So wrote the following list and also tagged my friends who are of a literary bent. So, here's my list of 15 authors I have read and whose prose has enthralled me and still doesn't fail to encircle me in its thralldom:

 

  1. Leo Tolstoy
  2. Charles Dickens
  3. Ernst Hemingway
  4. Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  5. Floyd Salas
  6. Miguel Cervantes
  7. John Steinbeck
  8. Jean Paul Sartre
  9. Albert Camus
  10. Salman Rushdie
  11. William Faulkner
  12. Allen Ginsberg
  13. Jim Morrison
  14. Walt Whitman
  15. Munshi Premchand

 

Failing memory or what I don't know. It took longer than it should have. It's by no means exclusive and, pray, not in the order of preference. However, Tolstoy occupies top of mind recall because of War and Peace. I forgot Ivan Turgenev, another author I have loved to read. I can think of many who were immensely more talented but couldn't find a place here. That's what we marketing practitioners call "top-of-mind-recall" a marketing and branding term.


I think great authors are like good wine. The more they are bottled and preserved the more they appear exclusively exotic.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

P. Lal of Writers' Workshop R.I.P.

I had written to Prof. P.Lal about publishing my poems some months ago. But, alas, it seems it's too late. He is no more. Such is the fate of my poems. Never mind. The Economist has a wonderful obituary here. I got to know little bit more about him from the article. Of course, legend builds on what is heard and read in print. May his legend grow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

No, This Country Can’t Produce an Obama

Obama has come and gone and as Amit Verma says in this article this country will never produce an Obama. Firstly, we are too racist and casteist to let an Obama rise up the ladder of power. I read a cartoon in a magazine wherein a politician – one of those typical white-khadi-wearing-platitude-spouting-farty types – says, something like, "What? Our country is going to be free, fair, and merit-based, then I see great danger for our future generations."

He means his generations. The hypocrite, the cheat, the liar, the vulgarian. Nothing personal, this to the cartoon character, okay, so chill.

So what's the Obama charisma? A man who wakes up at five a.m. in the morning for a walk has my admiration all right. Did anybody notice the athletic young man – the most powerful in the world? If he had come at an earlier stage in my life I would have imitated him through and through. If I have to imitate him now, I will have to grow some black hair.

Jokes apart.

For a black man to be the president of the most powerful nation in the world is not a joke. Yeah, not a joke. If you think of the heavy odds, he has done the impossible. You can think of all the snubs, wrinkling of the nose, the innuendos, the veiled threats he must have endured and still managed to hold his head high. Man, that guy has guts.

Salaam Obama!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Racked with doubts about blogging; and Why Media Is in Crisis.


Guess blogging started out as a hobby and became an obsession. Nowadays, if I don’t blog for a day, I feel as if I am incomplete. Such a feeling of utter desolation. I feel contrite. I guess I will have to give it up for sometime seeing as to how little progress I am making on the novel. So, maybe, I will be regularly irregular, as a teacher used to describe me in school.

But then blogging keeps me writing, keeps me ticking. I feel as if I have exercised after I put the few hundred lines online, like to see it in print, like the feel of my words and cower in pain when I see the bloopers I have committed in a sleepy state the previous night. I am half asleep – as I am now – when I write my blog and that doesn’t help the cause. It’s become a task. An onerous one, if you ask me politely. If you don’t – ask politely, that is – I might scowl at you. Such is a blogger’s mood.

Guess blogging is posing serious competition to established media like television and newspapers. I will tell you how. People these days depend on the net to get news and reportage on happenings. They don’t usually trust the mainline media having been fed up of their transparent lies. (Mediamen, never, ever, ever, lie to your reader or viewer. They are more intelligent than you think.) They find it easy to believe someone in their community of Facebook friends than an impersonal Raj Sardine (just invented this.). Try typing the subject you are looking to read in the search box, the first references that pop out would be from a humbling, bumbling blog. No not NDTV, CNBC, or, for that matter CNN or BBC. Why? I know the answer as a certified Search Engine Optimiser, but I am reserving it for another post.

Where the traditional media bungled – I repeat bungled – is in compromising their credibility. A publisher once said that producing and selling a news paper is like selling pig iron. However, dear esteemed saar, pig iron is NOT what we humble readers want to read every morning.  We want unbiased news. We see corroded pig iron sticking to your pages and avoid it because of tetanus and such like. When threatened with new media, instead of measuring up to the competition with your own financial might, you chose the easy way out: you compromised on your credibility. That’s where you went horribly wrong.  You sold your heart out – for isn’t editorial matter (that little, little scraps appearing between ads) the soul of a newspaper? – , you sold your editorial space and made friends of foes and enemies of friends.

The time is not far when you will never be trusted, quoted, discussed, referred, archived like you used to be. Despite your free supplements – which actually decimate forests and contribute to global warming – your circulations will drop.

Well, um, seven years is a long time to blog continuously, almost every day of the year. A bit of the fatigue and frustration is showing, I guess. But I will press on nevertheless. I think I will never stop blogging.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We May Be the Most Corrupt


India may be the only country in the world where garbage bins have to be kept chained so that it doesn’t get stolen. In this case the garbage bin belongs to government and the a*****e who steals it thinks he can keep his dirty laundry in it. Because we are a corrupt people who don’t realise that what is not ours should be left alone or reported to the authorities. We constantly covet other people’s property. When we see others with some gadget we ask for it (or even take it out of their pockets) and examine it, with the intention of possessing it.

Just the same thing struck me when I heard of the Adarsh Society case. It was like a thunderous bolt from the recently-rained blue sky. Clarity struck! It struck with such awesomeness, I was dazed, nay, flabber... whatever. I was left reeling from the impact of scams on my life. It came after a series of scams, just so that we are tired and fatigued by these revelations in the press. Just shows how corruption is deeply ingrained in our conscience. We turn the page thinking, “I knew that man was dishonest.” In the corporate world (which is equally internecine as the political world) we think constantly of appropriating another’s position and power, we try to get the other guy sacked by spreading rumours so that we get a promotion, worse: we try to grab others’ money.

What struck like a big bag of grain soaked in water suddenly released on one’s face is that perhaps there’s no one in this country who is beyond corruption. Take the following examples:

·         A publisher of books says (since I have many publishing inside stories being found unpublishable) he is helping the author and the cause literature when he accepts money from the poor starving author who doesn’t know his career will be ruined if he self-publishes.

·         Yesterday a woman broke the queue and requested the man in front of me to buy her ticket when I refused taunting me, “we should help each other, I too help people, you know.” Well, she is too corrupt to even realise she is in the wrong.

·         We throw litter anywhere because our garbage bins get stolen as most of the time it is empty and unused.
·         Education has become so corrupt we gladly shell out money to schools and colleges as donation which is a bribe and no amount of white washing will make it look clean. Thus our children learn the first steps in corruption from us – parents.

·         How can a housing society come up in a plush locality without requisite permission with the big man himself (chief of ministers who regularly wears khadi clothes) doling out flats to his cronies? Didn’t it strike them they would be caught, eh? How dumb and naive! How absolutely infantile. Even a child would do better when it comes to preaching morality. Don’t they even think before they do something which could easily be discovered? What thoughts were going through their minds before they did this act of chicanery? That, too, a chief minister.

·         Stop and ask a beggar on the street and he will say, “I am doing this as a hobby; I actually am a well-settled corporate profession and have enough money.”

Well, get the drift?

Now about the flat scam. Guess the Commonwealth Games scam and the IPL scam got over-ridden by this one. Each new scam rides pillion back over other scams. Now hear the Commonwealth scammer (the Mantralay maverick), of whom my billionaire friend who lives in Malabar Hill Dhansukhbhai Jethalal Shah is a keen supporter:

“See, thame soo khailu (what should I say to you), we do chota-mota (big-small) scams they get bugged, eh? Look, who-who are scamming and being caught. Hhehehehehohohoho! Poor wretch, I told him so. I told him not to give permissions to buildings in coastal zones. He being the minister thought he could do anything and get away with it. We are corrupt for fun, they are corrupt because they like to be corrupt. That’s the difference.”

I don’t know who to believe and who not to. I will leave that to the investigative journalists. 

Monday, November 08, 2010

Back from the Trip to Kerala

I am back. Like the character in The Terminator series says, “I will be back.” Eh? I don't fancy that series, as I don't fancy all sequels. I am back to blogging the traditional way after typing into an email address as I had done the past few weeks only to find that my email hasn’t been sent and the post didn’t appear. Bah!
Okay, in brief, it was a good journey to Kerala and back. There were irritants like: the hyper-active children who aped Bollywood stars on the way to Kerala, and, on the way back, a pack of friends kept shouting to each other at 2 a.m. waking me up with:
“What men, you people not understanding only what’s written in big-big English letters, no sense at all, destroying the peace.”
This from a guy in a fedora and an earring, his biceps like a tree trunk and pectorals like cricket balls.
This happened after another group of muscular youngsters had disturbed the peace with their high-pitched talk in Tamil. They kept blaring Tamil music and one even said (jokingly, I assume), “Kathi enge irukka,” meaning “where’s the knife?” when confronted by someone who objected to the merriment.
Am I imagining things? No, truly as I say to you, this happened.
All this inside a compartment which happened to be a chair car with around 100 people cooped in a space of as much square feet of space. The bum! He divested me – as he did the others – of my sleep which I couldn’t regain. So I went back to reading Outlook’s excellent 15th Anniversary issue (really thoughtful articles on the media from our best media brains, highly recommended reading) and Naipaul’s “A House for Mr. Biswas.” Wonder why Naipaul calls his protagonist “Mr. Biswas” throughout the novel, even the young Mr. Biswas, who should have been called, well, Mohun.
What struck me as unique about this trip was the freshness of the air and water – mercifully Kerala doesn’t have many polluting industries. When it rains it is a deluge in Kerala. I waited out such a storm in my cousin’s home and the music the rain drops made on a million leaves left me in a trance. Go to Kerala to see the billions of shades of green, as mentioned in an earlier post.
The chair car of the Garib Rath is too cramped and I felt the need for a bit more space to accommodate the huge suit cases people carried. When will we – if ever – learn to travel light? Almost everyone in the compartment looked as if they were trading in contraband goods and was carrying excess baggage. I think the railways must penalise people with luggage of more than 20 kgs like they do in aircrafts. 

Friday, November 05, 2010

Dissolution and Unrest in God's Own

The drive from Mallapally to Oonnukal is around 10 kilometres and
takes about one hour. The reason is all the roads plunge into gorges
and climb steep hills and veer around jutting spurs of land making
driving that much harder. There are monstrous bungalows everywhere
painted in lurid colours: shocking reds, stunning pinks, surprising
violets. I can't remember the lie of the land as all the landmarks in
my head are erased by new structures, mercilessly torn town to
accommodate news ones in its place. So I have a hazy idea of where I
am.

We drive, rather I am being driven by Babychayan, my brother-in-law,
in a Maruti Alto at a good speed and the wheels hum softly and the car
is stable and takes the bumps well. We ask directions to be sure and
three of the people we ask are fully sozzled at 4 p.m. in the
afternoon. As I have said often enough Kerala has a serious drinking
problem. And the problem isn't helped by the government selling liquor
to them through the public distribution system. There are endless
queues here at all times of the day and night, waiting patiently for
their nightly quota. The patience seem to evaporate after the first
two pegs and there are obscenities shouted at each other in the open
after that.

The benevolent leftist government has given the poor very good sops.
The daily wage for labourers has been fixed at Rs 400 ($ 10
approximately) a big amount by Indian standards. They have also
increased the supply of liquor. So the idea seems to be work more and
drink more. The government functions in a robinhood-esque manner. In
the middle are caught the middle classes, neither here nor there. They
have to pay heavy bribes and have to suffer power cuts and wait
interminably for gas connections and for admissions. They can't afford
labour at Rs 400 a day and they prefer to leave their land
uncultivated, which lie filled with wild plants and weeds. No there
isn't much useful vegetation in the God's land except perennial
long-term money-yielders like coconut and rubber.

I sit with a cousin and aunt. Both of them have lost their hearing,
suffere Alzheimer and their house has been nearly burgled recently,
the window rods were cut and a robbery attempted. The aunt is 95 going
on 96 and she has seen better days. The house is enveloped with spider
webs and there are even webs in the corners of where two walls meet.
The paint is faint and peeling, their's is a life of slow dissipation,
of a life that has gone past them, nothing left to look forward to. No
expectation. No future.

I see a snake, a sliver of motion sweeping into the cow pen, I see a
huge spider, large and lethergic with some recent meal. There's rain,
hard pounding and irresolute. There's unrest and dissolution in God's
own. Amen.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A Million Shades of Green

What I like about Kerala is it's greenery. There are a million shades of green appearing everywhere, as the bus or car takes a turn around a bend, as I walk along a rough stone-strewn path, as I take the one-foot-only path to some long-list relation's house. Green appears in resplendency everywhere: blue-green, turquoise, light green, pastel and whatever shades there exist.
 
Went for a walk with my brother-in-law on a road that curved along the contours of river Manimala, the smooth flow of which reflected the greenery around. The water is a muddy green with floating floatsam, bits of twigs, plastic, etc.
 
A short one today as I travel from Mallapally to Chennerkara. Mercifully there is no rain and it's rather pleasant.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Trip to God's Own, or, Is It?

I don't have many good things to report on my journey to Kerala, the
train journey I mean. Have we accepted anomie as a part of our life?
Immediately after entraining, I noticed the tendency to be corrupt and
cheat that we are born with, something genetically linked to us.
Anyway I entrain to find a crowded compartment, overflowing with
people who don't have proper reservations. There's a mother with only
three ticket for four people, there are two people joy riding on two
other people's reservations (their tickets are in the waiting list),
and the compartment is full of people and luggage. This disturbs me a
bit. I am at discomfort because there is a person on a seat on which I
should be sitting. There are nine children running amock in a space of
six by six foot area.

All the children happen to be little monsters. One monster's (pardon
my impertinenece but I have to call them monster) favorite strategy to
attract attention is to cover his ears and scream at the top of his
lungs. For everything he screams. Seeing him the other children also
become loud and scream. Children are good imitators, which is how they
learn. Then one monster clambers to the top berth and jumps down not
looking at who is below. Another too. Then he kisses another boy on
the mouth and say "I love you." They do these things without being
conscious of what they are doing? Where do they learn this thing? I
thought it might be an isolated incident but when all the monsters
exhibit this sort of behavior I suspect it is the genetic signature of
the present generation brought up fast food, television, and attention
deficit syndrome. Sadly, they are influenced by and are repeating what
they see on television.

Why do I say television? Because the only time they were a bit quiet
was when they played a television song request program complete with
"where are you calling from?" and "what are you doing?". Then, you
won't believe this, they sit and repeat verbatim the advertisements
that pIlay with such tiresome regularity on televisions. They repeat
exactly the words of "Dar ke aage jeet hai (there is victory after
fear)", "You and I in this beautiful world" and the lyrics of all the
bawdy item numbers. And they say television should not be regulated
and we should give a free reign to the programmers. Can you imagine?
We are bombarding impressionable minds with the most dangerous of
human depradations and base characteristics. And we think it doesn't
matter.

I know I may be in the ranting mode here. The children's mothers
seemed lost and didn't even try to control their wards. I suspect
their teachers also do the same, as a child of five says in Malayalam,
"I will bury you," to another and the mother watches and laughs at the
smartness of her child. No, she isn't embarassed. Nothing personal
here, but is this what the child hears from them? When I used to
travel to God's Own in my childhood I remember I used to sit without
moving in one place because my strict dad was around. All the children
in the compartment barely moved. But that may be glorifying the old
and decrepit.

But tell me, in this knowledgable and enlightened world isn't there
anyone to advocate discretion in viewing of mass electronic media?
Isn't anything there like parental guidance and self regulation? I am
amazed by my discovery inside a compartment of the Garib Rath to
Kerala.

I am sorry to write all this drivel when I am on vacation and I am
supposed to enjoy myself. It took the joy out of my journey of
discovering and filling in gaps in my understanding of God's Own
Country. I am in for some serious introspection in the coming days.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Apropos of the Arundhati Roy Post (Below)

Apropos of this post. Are writers and writing under attack? Why this intolerance with expression of ideas? Is free speech being curtailed? It happened with Rohington Mistry's Such a Long Journey in Maharashtra. How come the law keepers arrived at the scene of the protest after the slogan-shouting ended and the television crew arrived even before the protest started? Questions? Questions?

Here's the Guardian report.

The Arundhati Roy Affair over Kashmir

Today I am off to Kerala for a short vacation, for some rest and recuperation, R & R, as they are called. I am travelling by Garib Rath, the train service introduced by Lallooji, thank you, ji!

Something about the Arundhati Roy incident about secession has been bugging me. I want to write about it, but I don't know what. I am a confessed admirer of her writing and her activism for the poor, but I don't know if a writer should take sides in political debates. In my humblest of opinions, a writer's duty is to observe and not to jump into the fray. A writer should be a voice of reason and not a strident voice of anything besides. She has ended in a sticky situation because of her talk on a public platform. Such platforms have to be chosen with great deliberation, with prudence. I don't know the basics of the Kashmir questions, nor am I in a position to comment knowledgably. But I know this: Kashmir is something we have bungled very badly.

There's news that some rightist activists have damaged property at her residence. That's something unlawful and shouldn't be encouraged. It is said that the news broadcast vans appeared even before the protesters did. So did the rightists tip of the news channels so they could watch the tamasha they created in the evening in the comfort of their drawing rooms? Whatever happened to law and order?

Dilip D'Souza, who is a better writer by far, has put it succinctly in this blog post.