Monday, December 29, 2008

Which creed are you?
Tired of taking decisions for yourself?
Racked in doubts over what you believe in and what you don’t?

No worries no more.

Now in your own neighborhood – Fellowships to Arrogate Right to Think for Yourself (F.A.R.T.Y)

Determine your set of believe by filing in details regarding:

What clothes you wear
The length of your hair
The number of times you pray
The size and shape of skull-cap or turban you wear

And get your scores in 7 days.

If you think you are what you are – a Hindu, Muslim or Sikh – think again. In fact, don’t think at all. Let FARTY decide for you.

In case you still disagree with our results sms us at 6969 and we’ll send around a bunch of goons to burn your house and lynch your family.

For more details, keep watching the news.

Haikus for today's morning fog

A fog
Thick as an open palm
In front of my sleepy and
Smiling eyes.

A grey hump
like a shadow behind a shadow
Bobbing in the distance leaving
A wake of sour milk and mulch.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Jalaa kar raakh kar dungaa

Almost as a corroboration to my previous mail, Bharat Verma, editor of Indian Defense review, in an article on rediff, underlines the following steps that India should implement against Pakistan:

  1. Snap diplomatic relations immediately.

  2. Declare Pakistan a terrorist State.

  3. Discontinue all trains and bus services as well as trade and business transactions.

  4. Announce renegotiations of the Indus Water Treaty as the terms unduly favour Pakistan.

  5. Begin a process to regulate the water supplies and build new mechanisms to activate water flow controls.

  6. Cancel permissions for over flights.

  7. Seal the Nepal and Bangladesh borders on a priority basis.

  8. Build a grand alliance of democracies by increasing their stakes in the burgeoning economic pie of India, to leverage their support against authoritarian regimes on our border including Pakistan.

  9. Increase immediately FDI in the defence sector from 26 percent to 49 percent. This will help India to emerge as the most modern technology driven defence industry hub in Asia while making it profitable for Western companies to invest.

Whoa! It surprise me as Mr. Verma, must be aware that India has borne much more provocation than Taj attack.

Mr. Verma asks “Imagine if ten trained terrorists from Karachi can hold the financial capital of India to ransom for days, what will happen if 500 pour in from different points in to the country?”

A lot worse Mr.Verma.

But what you suggest would, at one go, put to waste a ten years series of diplomatic efforts where we have scaled from a perpetual war threat in the late eighties and early nineties to a point that even reunification was suggested a couple of years back.

It takes years to start a bus and only minutes to stop it.

Do ten terrorists really qualify for a war putting at risk approximately one third of the world’s entire population?

This is not a pacifist argument. But war should only be a last resort.

Terrorism is price I am willing to pay as being an Indian. Much as the RSS would not like it, the foundation stone of India is not Hindutva but the convent under which it was formed. A composite of annexed British territory and some five hundred odd “puppet” kingdoms (the claim of Kashmiris that they were not a part of British India is as ridiculous as that of Hyderabad or Patiala), the foundations of modern India are as practical as that of the other great democracy across the Atlantic – a guardian of rights of all its citizens. Mukul Keshavan points out that tho’ it is possible to be individually different in America but not collectively (even the blacks had to don suits, forget their native tongues and praise Lord Jesus before being assimilated into the mainstream power equations); but being Indian gives the right to be collectively different also. Hence a Naga tribal is as much Indian as a Keralite Christian. The inherent greatness of this ambition is bound to create a lot of friction at its borders. Much of the world is still reeling under the fundamentalist ideologies harking back to millennia ago; fascism, xenophobia still rule and the concept of India is very hard to sell.

But we have sustained. After sixty years we are still there. We bore the worst of crises and threats, but we didn’t survive by the bullet but by giving the right of ballot to even the dissidents (the Manipur secessionist who gave up arms in ’86 and went on to contest elections and even form governments is an excellent example).

War-monging to relatively minor (yes you heard that: minor) provocations like these is not the answer.
True, Pakistan is involved but what is Pakistan now? Is it the army or the puppet government or the intelligentsia? If we go by Mr. Verma’s recommendations, we will be playing right into the hands of the institution that has made Pakistan what it is today. A war devastated Pakistan is going to be a guarantee of another fifty years of trouble in our own backyard.

Instead, let’s concentrate on our own homework: improve our intelligence and human-rights record against minorities.

Mr. Verma’s essay is an excellent argument as to why defense forces should not be engaged in handling delicate issues like foreign affairs.

Pak military staging a comeback through Taj terror

An excellent article on how Pak army might have planned the Bombay terror attack to gain back the dominant role it has played in the story of Pakistan.

Throughout history, the role of the army in creating the perception of external threat to seize power is well known. Nobody understood it better than Hitler. If you convince your people that they are in danger of getting annihilated, you can convince them to relinquish their fundamental rights.

Those Indians who ask for increased role of army in the country's affair, even military rule, need to first understand that the most brutal pages of history have been written by the blood of civilians in the hand of armies. No, repeat no, military junta has reversed the inevitable pattern of suspensions of all fundamental rights, gunning down students, house arresting and executing political dissidents and sending the country back to twenty years.

An army is not a jawan with a beaming soldier with a rose in the barrel of his gun. An army is a trained killing machine - a necessary evil. Like any beast trained to kill, civilian control, no matter how inefficient, is absolutely necessary to contain the Dr. Hyde that lurks in any military.

But of course we Indians can't be bothered to delve into the deep mechanics of political events and the patterns of millenia of civilizations. We would rather hop from hysteria to hysteria, latch onto insignificant news bytes as statements of times, attempt to deny history and pat ourselves on our backs to the greatness of our civilizations and leer at each other that 'Hum toh aise hi hain.'

Our heroes are third-grade star sons, our national obsession, Bollywood, dishes the same fare to sixty-year old adults as six-year old kids, and we consider juvenalia like Rang De Basanti as serious political commentary of our times.

It's no accident that even after the so called awakening of India against terror, our sense of "patriotism" takes these ridiculous displays and RNBDJ is a runaway hit.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The wrath of Gods: Rab Ne Banaa Di Jodi

After a long time, I submitted myself to the tortures of a mainstream (incidentally the main streams in India are the gutters running proud and gushing in the middle of the streets) Hindi movie.

The movie was Rab ne banaa di jodi – from the messiah of love himself, Aditya the Chopra.

Aditya Chopra was born in the year 1955 to a family of renowned surgeons. Unfortunately, he lost his father to a brain surgery that he attempted on himself, and his mother to an accident where she sat on a scalpel. After his adoption, the young Chopra spent most of his time sighing and drawing tattoos of breasts around his young nipples (Incidentally, in an interview, he claimed that he still has nipples the red of a Washington apple: thankfully, the reporter didn’t ask him to prove his claim).
It’s around this time that devotees claimed that Aditya first uttered the word – “love”. Adtiya, again in an interview, claims that the idea sprang on him when he saw a dog in heat hold in abeyance a horde of others for a bitch. Unfortunately, what had really sprung on him that day was a close friend, young Karan Johar, who, so far, had restricted his “weirdness” to begging his male friends to let him shake off the last drops of their pee.
This was the start of Aditya’s first relationship and, tho’ too timid for drugs, he confesses that he did experiment with agarbattis and dhoops.
Growing up, Aditya fell into a depression and confided in his dad about his condition. ‘Well maybe it’s because you’re so fucking stupid’, his dad helpfully suggested.

The rest of the story is well known. Frightened by the complicated adult heights that his father had taken the notion of relationships with movies like Silsila and Kabhi kabhi, Aditya plotted a return to a pristine-white naivety. Not for him the idea of cheating husbands and wives, the contradictions and ambivalence of relationships. For Adi all it takes to have a romance is billowing curtains, heroines in white drenching in the rains and SRK named Raj smirking to glory and lifting his eyebrows even higher than Jack Nicholson.

Aditya’s success that followed derived from a shrewd insight into three critical factors that make Indian romance flicks Indian romance flicks.

1. India is a poor country. And frightfully aware of it. Not for it, the reality waiting to bite outside the cinema hall: instead, throw in the white babes and the Swiss Alps.

2. Most Indians have repressed relationships. Most men and women in India do not get to date before marriage: even the marriages are arranged by the elders. Hence, most Indians do not get to romance.

3. The Indian society runs on clichés. Education is usually vocational and, hence, technical: subjects like psychology and sociology are restricted to the inner walls of a few colleges. Indians are not taught to express themselves emotionally, their social awareness of their conditions is abysmal, their ideas of sex chastity and virginity medieval in its morality, their treatment of women horrible and… to put things in perspective, in any survey, a romance from Mills and Boons will be voted as a “mature depiction” by not less than 95% of the respondents.

Aditya had seen the failure of his father’s Silsila and realized that most Indians do not want to see even this tempered down reality (in the last scene, in an attempt to reconcile the errant man and wife to their spouses, the director resorts to a plane crash rescue, no less!) Most Indians who come to see romance flicks do not come to see a reflection of their own experiences (coz sadly they don’t have much to share there) but live a dream vicariously. Since, with the taboos clichés mindless-customs, most Indians have very dumbed down emotional quotient, they crave for loudness, repetition, clichés and an idea of romance usually associate with early teens in the developed world. And yes, like the father in DDLJ mouths, they want their heroes to live the lives they never would have.

Hence, the swiss Alps, red sports cars, leather jackets, flash of gori-chamdi, and the myth of ascendancy of Indian values above everything else.

The success of Aditya’s first film, DDLJ, lay in not the intrinsic value of the film but how it successfully adapted itself to the naïve idea of romance in India to a T. In the movie, the idea of consenting adults is never even mentioned. Heroines, even foreign-bred, weepingly succumb to the wills of their fathers and heroes, when having the opportunity, refuse to run away with them. And, of course, their love is so pure that they never even kiss.

Sample this dialogue from the movie (source: IMDB) –

Raj Malhotra: Do you love me?
Simran Singh: More than anyone else.
Raj Malhotra: Do you trust me?
Simran Singh: More than I trust myself.

Now sample a few dialogues from Closer (I know it’s not a fair comparison but I regard the latter as a watershed movie in the depiction of relationships):

Anna: I'm sorry you're...
Larry: Don't say it! Don't you fucking say you're too good for me. I am, but don't say it.

Larry: Is he a good fuck?
Anna: Don't do this.
Larry: Just answer the question! Is he good?
Anna: Yes.
Larry: Better than me?
Anna: Different.
Larry: Better?
Anna: Gentler.
Larry: What does that mean?
Anna: You know what it means.
Larry: Tell me!
Anna: No.
Larry: I treat you like a whore?
Anna: Sometimes.
Larry: Why would that be?

I do not wish to present a contrast between the movies’ maturity quotients but their contexts. Imagine, screening a DDLJ to an audience nurtured on a diet of reality-probing films like Closer and releasing Closer to an Indian audience.

It is the quintessential argument most of Indian media has forgotten: a thing’s popularity is not a statement on its intrinsic value.

After DDLJ, Adi tried his hand on four multiple romances (five if you add the disastrous imitation of Pankaj Kapoor’s Santa by the under-talented Anupam Kher). Mohabattein was supposed to be a showcase “first time in screen together” for the big B and the small S but there’s little much to showcase when each of the stars is a horrible two-dimensional caricature: one mouthing pratishtha sammaan samriddhi even while taking a dump, the other playing violin and talking to ghosts. With veteran thespians like Jugal Hansraj, Uday Chopra, Preeti Jhangiani and Kim sharma, the movie is now best known for its stellar performances, lucky Uday’s minute-long pappi and Preeti’s kathak, or whateveritwas, in the rains.

RNBDJ is the third on the block from this purveyor of love.

It’s been three weeks since I saw it and much of my initial reaction is now tempered down. But if there was only one word that I could use to describe it, it would have to be – horrible.

I think the movie started with the director’s desperation to connect with the audience that he lost to his langotiya-yaar Mr. K Johar (in an interview, Aditya quoted ‘Pehle he stole my innocence, now he’s stolen my plots!’). Why not plant the idea of a SRK-Yash Chopra banner romance in every Indian romance. SRK quoted (and this is as an actual quote) that he picked the idea of his two characters for participants he saw on one of his shows. While the second character is played to a T, since it is essentially a small-town SRK duplicate, the main character – the resilient and silent Indian middle-class – is a farce. Is this how the director and the actor really see the character? I forgive Adi – the scion of a famous producer-director, his idea of middle-class India is susceptible to be a clichéd warp-zone. But what about SRK and his humble Delhi beginning? Is this how he understands the emotional constructs and motivations of the middle-class?

This actually demonstrates a theory of mine: if the daily activities of any man become constant news feeds, if the man is seen on interviews over interviews regarding his views from choli designs to world peace, if a man starts talking about himself in the third person, if his private jokes become grist for plot-lines and compering contracts: that man is gone. His sense of reality and self-perception as acute as ol’ Canute’s (tho’ Canute knew he could not order the waves back).

The premise is so stretched that even the director is not convinced about it. Hence, the hero has to mouth fifteen-minutes long rationale for his actions to a yaaraa, a mannequin and the audience (as stoned to boredom as the mannequin) after every half an hour.

One quality that needs to be appreciated in the movie is the principle of minimalism. Everything is there only for a purpose. Not for it, tangents and threads that clutter our daily lives.

Hence, the movie starts with SRK visiting a wedding at an old teacher’s place. The teacher has only a few scenes to plod the story along and is only present in those sequences: first to introduce SRK to is daughter as his best student ever (the best student goes on to bag an exciting job in Punjab Powers and the personality of a doormat), have a heart attack to the news of a tragedy and then get his daughter married on deathbed. The daughter, when she moves to her sasural, does not even carry a picture of him with her – so quickly are the dead forgotten.
The daughter is depicted as the socializing and bubbly sort: in fact, that, one guesses, is the reason for her grouse with her new hubby’s fidgeting inhibited personality. Yet no name is mentioned after the father’s death and no relative or friend comes visiting the bride. I guess that this might be a hidden tribute to the anonymity of character of Satya, of whom the only fact revealed was that he came from Hyderabad.

The heroine’s grouse with her new hubby tho’ is entirely justifiable. Not only had he gone to develop a personality befitting the gods, he also has the following strange characteristics: a habit of pulling his shirt-tails in front of his crotch every five seconds, a queer disinterest regarding sex (with a wife like that sleeping downstairs in another bed the – what one gathers – virgin hero coolly walks about in his pajamas with no tell-tale frustrated bulges on display), and ( in another tribute) no relatives and friends except for an impossibly mismatched yaaraa. The yaaraa tho’ is quickly explained: the plot needs his hair-dressing skill and saloon for the hero to transform into his other role.

As for the main plot, do you really want me to go there?

I think the movie might one day be hailed as the dawn of the absurd in Indian mainstream cinema.

For all its box-office collections, this movie is the first note in the death-knell of the half-career of Mr. Chopra. Do remember that even Khalnayak was a resounding success – nevertheless it did start the decline in the fortunes of Mr. Ghai.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Shawl ke neeche kya hai

It was more than a year and a half that I was returning to the arms of my first love: Bangalore; and one since I had boarded a flight. My travels to the heartland of Punjab and, a couple of times, homewards bound, had been on good ol’ trains. (The last journey, cramped on a side upper above a man who lies sprawled on his side lower bed for nine straight hours, has already cost me my back that started acting again today.)

Perhaps it was the downturn or just the erstwhile Air Sahara crew, but the standards of service I saw were very poor. No Air India sort PSU reality bites but I have seen better service at Irani restaurants (an interesting metaphor since some of the fliers treat the staff as badly).
What was really bad about the service, besides the service itself, was the forced smiles. This comes from the rather stupid America-originated myth that good service comes with a smile. No. Good service comes with a good service – punctuality, neatness, attentiveness and, if you’re really that good, anticipation.
Smiles are very personal expressions of emotions, much like kick in the groins, and let’s not some lucky asshole from Minnesota corporatize that too. Fake smiles reek of deceit and, even, a certain revulsion – like the smiler would much rather stick something really sharp up your nose.

My airhostess, who forgot my order for a sandwich (a sandwich I was willing to pay the exorbitantly overpriced charges that these flights charge) twice before telling me, smilingly, that the pantry is closed had a smile that seemed to be like she was grimacing while trying to take a crap standing up.

Of course, it might have been the brood that had plonked into the seats, just minutes before the flight took off, all around me. A young man – there’s some irony to call a creature, of habits and customs so ageless, young – had approached the decent corporate-wallah sitting on the aisle asking him to “adjust” as he was with the misses. A phenomenon usually reserved for trains. The man, much settled with his laptop out and seat belt buckled, obliged – perhaps from a sense of bewilderment.

There had been a huge uproar when the family had alighted earlier – apparently they had forgotten a “bachche ka bag” on the bus and had asked the flight attendant to bring it. Strange since there was no kid amongst the seven odd family that scattered all over. Anyway, for a few moments after the doors closed, it seemed that the bag had not been brought in.
‘What you forgot the bag?!?’ The old man seated just ahead of me asked incredulously of the nervous steward.
The mom seated next to him whispered to someone and asked what there was in the bag. ‘Nothing much’, someone whispered.
‘Forgot the bag!?!’, the man started rising.

Now, he was standing and shaking – literally. I could feel the righteous indignation swell in his, as I imagine, reddening face as he scraped it from the bottom of the barrels of the opportunity.
I saw his hands grip the seat in front and inhale a deep breath – I swear. Another hostess chose this moment to play spoilsport and rush in with the bag. I saw the man deflate back into the seat and rise only when the flight landed.

The plane took off. I smelt parathas in the air as they were passed around once the seat belt sign went. The man seated next to me rolled the one passed to him into a dick-shaped roll and munched at it thoughtfully.

I don’t remember really know what caught my attention: for some reason the man on the middle seat – a mid-twenties bugger with receding hair, developing paunch, who evoked images of a fat kid being fed dahi and cheeni by his boy-loving grandmother who petted his hair as he ate – would lean over and say something to the lady seated on the aisle – the lady donning a specks, waist-length braided hair and a studious expression – and then glance over his shoulders in my direction.

I was really absorbed in the book but this repeated action broke through my concentration and irritated me. Earlier, when the man had settled down the man had observed me, the book and my action with a dull uninhibited curiosity. They dropped off my horizon soon enough – but not before I caught them holding hands, and, more than that, the tell-tale suhaagan ki mehendi – or whatever it is called. Thankfully, on the girl’s hand. The man had a kadaa of gold on his left wrist.

I must have read for an hour before I turned my head towards their direction again – I had noticed the silence that had fallen from that quarter, but only with the attention of someone listening to a bore over the phone while surfing porn.

My reason to go back to them was simple – I had to take a leak and cross over them to reach the aisle.

The couple was sharing a shawl – and it was draped over their heads.
The shawl – with small mirrors on it – was scintillating in the dimness and if discretion and privacy was what they were looking for, it was a wrong choice of shawl.

Like a wish denied, my pee gathered unbelievable momentum with each denied second of relief. I peered and found that there was no movement from within the shawl – none. The heads were too far apart.

What the hell were they upto? I thought angrily.

And then I realized that I was looking for movement a little higher than it was – I will leave this at that.

On cue, the wheezing matron rose like a arthritis-tormented phoenix from the seat in front. Now the fun starts – I thought. Curiously, after pausing for the slightest of seconds at the sight of the shawls over two mounds of heads, the matron roughly shook the shoulders of the son, and handed him a baggage to hold while she took a pee. The son climbed out of the shawl with the passively disturbed expression of a babu who had just been perusing a file.

I grabbed the opportunity and took a break myself. Coming back, I was relieved to find that the couple were out of the shawl – for the time being./

They remained silent and apart for a few minutes and I slipped back into the book. A while later, I noticed another glance over the shoulders towards me. I looked back to discover a pattern. The couple would drape the shawl over their heads, the man would hold his head apparently inert while the woman worked at a with a ferocity very incongruous with her spexy accountant expression of trying to remember a section from an accounting standard, the shawl would keep slipping off their heads but the man would catch it just in time and drape themselves back, then – after ten minutes or so – they would break apart and stare ahead like they were two perfect pair of strangers, then – after ten minutes of rest – the man would turn towards her, look once over his shoulders at me, and up would go the shawl again.

The plane landed finally and I was spared more of this ridiculous spectacle.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The worst of Bolllywood superhits

In an earlier post, I lambasted Raja Sen for trying to teach us Hollywood.
But I still love this cheeky bastard. In the following article in Rediff he talks about the worst superhits in Cinema which include Gadar, the new Devdas, Fanaa, Vivah, Raja Hindustani, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, Mard, Heyy Babyy, Karan Arjun and No Entry.

It's so refreshing trying to someone not buckle under the custom of being politcally-correct and polite to even the trashiest.
It takes courage, willingness to face the inevitable 'And who do you think you are mistah' and social exile.

Keep up the good work, Raja.

Reading Keep off the Grass

Yesterday, I walked to the Landmark to read a book. A particular book.
The author was a fellow-alumnus but that didn’t mean anything. Irritated by one his media gimmicks, I had attacked this author in this blog some time ago on the basis of just a blurb on the book and still felt guilty about it. Besides, the hyper-publicity the media machinery had built around the book and the decent reviews he got from most casual readers had done its work. I read a couple of interviews and the guy seemed decent and down-to-earth; he talked about soul-bending experiences and restlessness and being inspired by my favourite Indian writer.
So I went and read.

Why do you write a book about it when you’re not even serious about it? The two hours I spent bent over the book, while great works beckoned me all around, was like trying to listen to a man talking without thinking what he’s talking about. in both the act of prattling and this book, what is talked about is not important – but the – Look I’m talking – is.
I won’t even judge the book on its literary merits – like Chetan Bhagat the author is on the defensive even before you get to pick his book. I myself am a philistine as far as theory of literature goes, but I do believe good reading is not only about style, it’s about substance. It’s about honesty.
This book is a fundamentally dishonest effort.
The book starts with the protagonist, who’s just lived the Indian wet dream of having screwed a blonde and left her begging for more, launching into a path of self-discovery when she asks him when he plans to go back to India, Pak, Bangladesh or wherever he is from. And so the hero does: after a painful (for both the reader and the protagonist) conversation with a father who seems to be cut and pasted from Harold and Kumar.
The purpose of the blonde is to get screwed – there is nothing more about her other than a reference to her job and her liking for investment bankers – and the purpose of the father is to be a caricature of a first-generation immigrant Indian father. They are not deliberate caricatures of the Simpsonian/MAD irreverence and stereotype-questioning liberalist modes; they are caricatures because the author never really bothers to fill the colors to the desultory lines he’s sketched around them.
In my alma mater, the author meets a Kargil-ka-sipahi (nothing less my folks) and a cool dude (two pages follow describing the inherent genius of his IIT pedigree: a page and a half more than the pages that the author gives to any other character.)
Regarding the confused identity of the ABCD protagonist, it comes across as convincing as Shabbir Khan doing a Rafi.

There were two phrases that I caught straight from English August (I just completed another of my annual perusal of the work a month ago) – and the descriptions of the India the protagonist sees is heavily borrowed from the book too. This I am not averse to actually since EA is the sort of book that inspires a new vocabulary to define the Indian everyday experience. Only the effect most of the times was seeing an adaptation of your favourite movie scene in a Mukesh Bhatt directed/ Bharat Shah produced movie.
Sadly, there are a couple of places where the author does score. But it’s only because all of us do have some eloquent wisdom in us.
Not all of us are literary giants – not all of us are the Gabriel Garcias with fantastic tales to tell. I have read Shashi Tharoor a lot despite the fact that I think he’s not the foremost of the writers writing on India. But it’s his honesty of effort that makes me want to listen to him.

I questioned my judgement: as someone once told me, it might be just plain jealousy. I went back to Google – determined to find an echo to my own feelings about the book. Ultimately, I found a short review where the writer describes the effort in the words “As if the author was just writing to finish the book and wanted just see himself in print.“
I read about a book a couple of weeks. That means 25-30 books a year. In the 20 years ahead that probably remain with me, I will read another 500-600 books: such a woefully short number. Do writers like these understand the value of the space that they have squatted on and destroyed?
Two questions:
1. Why write a book when your heart is not even into it
2. Why publish this (this for the publishing house) desultory effort
I have a lot more to write on this theme which I will write shortly. I will go and finish the book in the evening today.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

India Under Attack - Our sensibilities under a bigger one

A week into the attack and we are blabbering like terrorism touched our lives on 26-11 the first time.
Actually, it did. This is the first time that the rich and the powerful are in the cross-wire. And in this might still lie our redemption. That the rich have been inconvenienced. Shobha De, the renowned socially conscious intellectual, who regularly expresses her empathy to the cause of the Mumbaikar with scathing articles on which starlet is getting buggered by which producer and thought-provoking books like Sisters, is now suddenly the voice of the angry Mumbai. So far, the odd blasts on locals hardly touched her; this time she might have to watch behind her back at the Sheraton while she trades gossips with other equally socially-conscious corporate wives and socialites.
You probably have heard about the brave lady whose outlasting contribution to Indian journalism is the creation of the brain-bending Page 3 and whose funeral was attended by many teary-eyed strangers, but did you know that an entire Muslim family of five got shot at CST and who might not have registered an equally generous attendance on their funerals -- despite the fact that they had not even created the cult of Page 3?
Or do you know the name of anyone shot at CST?
Instead, we know that Suhel Seth escaped by the thinnest of whiskers – but whether that is good or bad news is anybody’s guess.

If I am seen to deride the dead here, that is the intention. A dead citizen, for a nation, is as good as any other. But the media’s biased coverage makes me wish that for this kind of coverage I should have seen a lot more of those “celebrities” dead.

Can we cut the crap about martyrs and heroism and enough is enough?

Of martyrs
Sandeep died while flushing out terrorists – but that was his job, right? The idea of martyrs reeks of causes bigger than everything else and that leaves no room for any doubts and questions. Even the terrorists who died are being hailed as martyrs elsewhere. Given a choice between martyrdom (shahaadat) and being alive on virtue of better intelligence and equipment, I think I know what Sandeep might have chosen first.
Nobody wants to be a martyr (except for suicide bombers perhaps but that is also only a means to a bigger end) unless one has to. A man doing his duty and dying because of faulty management practices is not a martyr – he is a victim.

Of enough is enough
Mumbai has had enough – what the fuck is that supposed to mean, anyway? If the next incident happens at Chowpatty, would the people tell the terrorists that we told you that we had had enough the last time, phir kyun aayaa baba?
Well I have had enough of my corporate life, but so what? The choice is mine what I mean to do about it.
A day before the attack, the biggest issue in the city was the Manoos content of the vada pav. A month before, in response to attack on desperat students appearing for a national exam, some of the city's gliteratti, hands on gloves with the thugs running the son-of-the-soil show in the city, went on record tacitly supporting the cause.

If we can't have the same candlelight vigil when a city remains silent when students are beaten to death, I say, you can shove the burning candles up your Manoos-asses for all I care.

Attacking our national heritage
I don’t care if Taj is listed as No. 1 in world heritage or No. 8298.

Two reasons:

Just like any dead citizen is as good as any other, the contrast between the Armani and the langot notwithstanding, any bombed place in India is as good as any other.

Second, if a place requires shoes on your feet and a wallet full of grands, it’s not a national heritage site for me, it’s a strictly commercial venture.

I don’t care if Tata made the hotel as a grievance to an insult of national or strictly personal nature, but the fact is that before 26th I would have to be stacked with cash to sit in that whtevertisnamewas bar and my driver in the slippers and dirty pants would have been denied entry by the guard.
Just because a lot of rich people, who write all the fancy columns in the world and claim to speak for a nation of billion, have fond memories of a place, a place does not become more esteemed than any other.

Worse has happened, India, and we have found ways out of it.
At one time, Manipur and Punjab produced a steady stream of bodies in the national dailies. The lessons learnt at both places was that victimizing a community can never assure a long-term peaceful solution.

Just forget this talk of wars, compulsory military service, POTAs.

Going to war with even a non-nuclear nation leaves scars for decades to come.
Giving laws like POTA to even an efficient police force is fraught with danger; and we're talking about the Indian police here.

This is from people who have no problem seeing future statesmen in people who have led genocides against unarmed civilians.

This is from people who have arrogantly assumed that the country’s best interests are aligned with the interests that serve them the best.

This is from people who’ve no moral qualms over the fact that their rich lifestyle is largely an effect of the incredible poverty of the country (the ridiculously cheap labour); and no thoughts for the facts that the resilience of cities is mainly a question of daily survival of the majority living in its shanties and that the enemy was at least willing to die for what he believed in.

The point is that I don't think that most of us who claim to be the elite and the peaceful liberals care much about justice, liberalism and "national character" as long as it doesn't inconvenience us.

These are macro forces that take years of history to shape, and just because your fancy dinner got interrupted by the forces of politics you don't care about, history won't take an accelerated pace.