Friday, November 28, 2008

The bitter dose

The worst thing about the crises like Taj stand-off is the rhetoric that follows. The cliche of spirit of Mumbai, the cliche of "Enough about this spirit of Mumbai", "terrorism has no religion" (Actually true: religion has terror built into it and not vice versa) blah blah.

Then the diplomatic use of "foreign hand" (as opposed to member up our patriotic arse), "dastardly act", speeches of blood, toil, sweat and tears.

Would, tomorrow, the mama at the Traffic Junction stop on his tracks for a second before he accepts a bribe of hundred for the challan he threatens to cut?
Would the aggrieved respectable shop-keeper at CP, who always stays at the Taj when in Mumbai, start filing sales tax and declare his true income for 2009?
Would a hundred men in the crowd, tomorrow, stop a couple of men bashing an auto-wallah instead of ogling?

Two friends had solicited my opinion, gotten jarred by the fact that I have broken order by instead of fuming a choked "This time they have gone too far" I breathed a tired "We always had it coming", and then asked me what ifmy parents were there inside? How would I feel then, heh?
Sad and Angry. I still am. But the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.

remember the Olympics and the promise of 3o medals next time? Exactly how do we want to achieve it, I wonder. Cricket is back as strong as it ever was.
I am not questioning the righteousness of our national preference It is what it is and that is why we fare poorly at other sports, other than the odd unavoidable sparks of genius.

Same with our politics: it is what it is and what we have allowed it to become.
India, its corruption and its third-world afflictions, are what they are and no amount of self-congratulatory rhetoric can change that.

We have no infrastructure, water and electricity supply are still a scarce commodity, a cumbersome bureaucracy that sucks every penny out of development funds; we are usually corrupt, we would flee from a scene of accident but stop at one not involving us and then gloat at the bloodied victim slowly dies.
Why are we hankering about the necks of a couple of octogenarian politicians? What strict action do we want?
How is a strike, a war going to solve anything when the problem is with the product itself under attack?
And I am not being cynical and rhetorical when I ask these questions: seriously, you who talk of these things, sit down and let me know how any such solution would work in a five year horizon at least.

Blaming Shivraj Patil is as bad as incarcerating the Ebay CEO for the MMS. It was an intelligence failure that can only get highlighted once it fails.
Why are we assuming fool-proof systems in a system as wrecked as ours?

I am not even advocating – as some editorials-hogging fools regularly do – that we change our national character. Like it’s a bloody cap or something that you just doff off and put another instead.

In histories, dominant national characters have changed only with cataclysmic events – the revolution and terror in France, civil war in States or in the ruins of WW2 in Japan and Germany.
Perhaps, that’s what history is preparing us for: the bitter dose.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

How to become a millionaire in a minute

Short on HLL at start of day with a thousand.

Of terror and voter cards

I read an article today, the kinds I only read these days, about a conscious citizen trying to get a voter card. The crux is that he went through the travails of getting one made, finding a different photograph on his card, going through the entire process again and getting nothing. Then he takes time to work to go to the central office, finding others like him there, the office locked, the chief not picking calls and out till three, and an irritated clerk shooing them away – if it’s not here, you didn’t give it. I think he mentioned 200 people.
To those in Delhi and who have seen all that beaming – jago – hype, with even a national hijacked attempt from a tea brand featuring the new face of the country, away from their usual self-congratulatory post-91 reality-fantasy of the country, sipping tea and looking positively “awake”.

These were people who were not asking for any benefits – a locked pension file or a land record gone missing – these were people waking up from an electoral “sloth” and hoping to participate in the system. And this is what their awakening wrought.

A strange start to an article on terror.

But do you imagine the raw appeal of the machismo with which a group of boys, within minutes, have tattered the reputation of a superpower-claimant? The minute the first bullet in Taj was fired, the terrorists succeeded. Everything that followed was a special. And we know how much they have dolloped of that.

Terrorism – or naxalism also in our context – is a war with the state.
And what is the Indian state – if you take out the hollow jingoism – but that babu shouting at 200 people that they are lying?
And what is the state than those 200 people who don’t burn that office down and tear that man’s throat out?
This happened in the heart of Delhi. And there is an India, a whole pie of it, outside the Mumbais and the Delhis.

Suddenly, after Delhi blasts, the cops who are the biggest enemies of the daily-wage earners in the streets go, are suddenly supposed to be the confidants to whom all suspicions regarding “suspicious activity” is transferred.

In Lucknow, last Sunday, meeting a school friend from Lucknow visiting from Australia, after fifteen years of spending class1 to 10 seated adjacent due to the sequence of our names, our car was towed from a parking zone coz a dignitary suddenly arrived; a parking zone where half an hour ago parking fees was being collected. After pleading in vain for half an hour to an unrepetant cop, Ahsan, the friend, he had to pay 750 to release it. I mention Ahsan's Muslim idntity to highlight that many (but not all, I agree) of the frustrations of the community are ironically secular [Ironic since the country's claim to secularism is manifested usually in the meting out of daily injustices only - the priviliges bagged by either by quota or do-you-know-who-my-uncle-is].

Injustice is the fabric on which the Indian state is wrought - right from the PSU to the babu to the politician to the hawaldaar. The separatist movements, the naxalism and terrorism are only manifestations of its various forms.

The biggest myth regarding Shivaji that the Hindu thugs, claiming to be spokesmen of the religion, propound is that it was a Hindu war for lost pride against the Muslim villains.
Wrong. Read your history assholes. Read your economic history.
It was a movement primarily fired by unjust taxations and blatant corruption of a kingdom of wasted rulers and court intrigues. Forces of frustration do not change with time – while religion might ensure a peaceful afterlife of 72 odd virgins (depending on your choice of opium) - the issue of daily bread, and if you’re slightly fed, dignity, is directed more by governance.

What India is under attack right now? The India that is under threat is an India we know is there buried beneath the miles of shit that we have let the “system” crap above it. Forget Shivraj Patil – do you really think that any politician in India in his place and things would have been different? Any party other than the Congress?

Bring on the terrorist laws (and make it all the more worse), platitudes and juloos. Today is the twang of the bow that was stretching since the past fifty years.

My fear is this: the sheer audacity of what happened today, and the Taj elitism of the hostages, would inspire a thousand of other “misdirected” youth trampled by the system who will vent their frustration against this invisible miasma of unrelenting injustice and oppression against a definite face, although anonymous and multitudinal, and the aphrodisia of an automatic in hand. These might be youths who've been running around courts for a piece of land lostin the 50s, the excesses of the local political goon or police, or one of the many things that are commonplace in an Indian middle-or-below class citizen.
There is nothing more ominous than a misdirected rage right now.

but unavoidable.

Shivaji didn’t break the stranglehold of the decadant Mughal empire in his lifetime; but the inspiring and enduring legend of his audacity, as opposed to the grovelling reality of successive kings towards the Afghan raiders, did.

To be born again, you have to die first; To raise an edifice again you have to raze first: this is the frightening reality that looms ahead unless the “system” changes from within.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Stepaway from these brothers

Some of the greatest scripts start off with the question – what if? Unfortunately, so do the worst.
The prime example in recent times would be Adam Unfunny Sandler’s Click where the scriptwriter raised the cilched question – ok what if life could be controlled by a remote? And the monstrosity followed

Step Brothers apparently starts with the pairing of rather similar body-structured John Reilly and Will Ferrel. What if we got them together as retarded brothers?
If the 80s, outside the Monty Pythons, marked the acme of Hollywood comedy scripts (‘All of me’, ‘A fish called Wanda’), the 2000s must definitely mark the nadir.
Sample the comedies it’s delivered – The scary movies series, the ‘teen date’ type flicks, and movies like ’40 year old virgin’ and anything starring Katherine Heigl in a comic turn. In fact, a decade where comedy has been dominated by the likes of Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider.
It all started with Something With Mary. The hair-raising scene gave licence to just locker-room talk pass for comic timings. Genitalia and the various so-far private affairs that come along with owning one became plot plodders. Be it the stuck zipper in something about Mary or erections in Road Trip, Scary movies and 40-year old virgin. In Step Bros, of the 1hour 20 minutes movie, almost five minutes are spent on a scene where one guy threatens to bang the other’s drums with his balls and is then explicitly shown to do so (prosthetics, I assume; and hope).
When I was churning comic scripts in college, it became a challenge to get the laughs without sexual innuendoes. Not that I was a prude but simply it was too easy. Have Anil Kapoor mouth a ‘Teri maa ka...’ and then trail off and 90 times out of 100 you would get a laugh. Heck, even fardeen khan might register that average. And then ask Fardeen to deliver something really funny and count the laughs.
Risqué turns have always been a major theme in comedy – and no one has handled it with as much hilarity as that genius - Woody Allen. Everything you wanted to know about sex has got to be the best sex comedy ever. The last episode is entirely about a man making out and ejaculating and it’s HILARIOUS.

But there’s a line between risqué and tasteless, unfunny and funny that is as thick as Reilly and Ferrell together.
Step Bro never judges the line, the script and the direction waste two very good actors.
Reilly is no Jeff Daniels and Will Ferrell is no Carrey. And this is certainly no Dumb and Dumber.
Avoid this one unless you think one-minute long farts in interviews is the funniest thing you have ever seen.

On a side note, as soon as I saw this guy in a guest role, I knew that there was no rescuing the movie anymore.
With classics like Knocked Up, 40 year old virgin, zack and mimi make a porno under his belt – he makes Ben Stiller look like Chaplin.
The unfunniest man since Jinnah, someone please put the likes of him to sleep!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Ethics un-hinged

Some archbishop today just declared that forced conversions are anti-Christian. Of course, terrorism has always been un-Islamic. In the same vein as there is no Hindu terrorist.

Reminds me of my company that, by lieu of employing me, deigns to morally instruct me on the value of ethics and smiling at people.

Why can't - because it is not the decent thing to do - be reason enough?