Tuesday, March 24, 2009

State of the nation after IPL fiasco

Pratap Bhanu Mehta delineates what the shifting of IPL states on the state of Indian democracy.
In his words, “the institutional articulation of democracy” in India still remains fragile if every election needs to be so covered with security in anticipation of elements of disruption within the system. He questions whether if these elections are inconclusive and the next elections clash with Commonwealth, would the Commonwealth be shifted abroad too?
The Indian state has lost confidence in itself and while it’s ok to be honest, this honesty has not come with any soul-searching into why we got into this state that we cannot provide security – one of any government’s five basic duties to its citizens – to even a public spectacle (“public spectacles are the visual representation that our public spaces are secure, that the rituals and forms through which we experience being part of a public are an occasion for celebration, not for anxiety.”). It just bluntly states – we can’t do it.

I agree with the author that “The authority of every state and the foundations of its legitimacy are, in part, deeply psychological” and that our much vaunted democracy “works only because the sinews of coercion keep the electoral process together.”
The Indian state has lost its moral authority and is a system through which citizens are abused and not served.
The author correctly correlates this to the sham assurances we give to the world that our country is not like Pakistan and we are a safe investment zone.

Acknowledgement of shortcomings has no meaning if there is no will and desire to correct itself. It just tates: “Haan main nanga hun, toh kya?”

Kholu, from what I have heard and read, Modi is allegedly a Vasundhara Raje man. I believe one of the magazines carried an expose on the same. Refer here and here. That might be the reason behind BJP's stridency.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Memoirs of the first Indian Election

Inder Mahotra recounts first-hand experience of the first election held in India.

I remember reading a detailed catalogue of the logistics and mind-set challenges that had to be surmounted to hold the first election in 1952. in a book whose name I have forgotten around 2 years back.

Beside reminding me that there are so many forgotten heroes in shaping the history of our country - Sukumar Sen in this case , it was also the start of my discovering the much vilified Nehru as the man who gave India its institutions - secularism, seeds to green revolution, statesmanship and a functioning democracy - keeping at bay the tide of regionalism, casteism and communalism for as much time as to let these dig their roots inside, before forces of difference finally engulfed the structure and corroded its base.

IPL's false invocation to the fans

Kunal Pradhan's incisive take on the IPL controversy

Pradhan goes behind the hypocricy of the Board and Modi in invoking the injury done to the Indian fan bythe shift of venue.

Pradhan points how the board never bothered to better the condition of the Indian fan earlier (I agree to many of his points describing the conditions.) who lines up to watch a game.

He then digs into the real reasons (why do they always turn out to be strictly commercial in the end?) which are mainly two:

  1. IPL’s own position: IPL lost money in the first season. It needs to stick in the mind of people to ultimately make money (like Sharjah) and for that it’s regularization (election year or not) needs to be done. In his words: “one top franchise official had told me this week, would force them to start “not from scratch but from minus five” in 2010.”
  2. Lalit Modi’s clout with BCCI, after his loss in Rajasthan Elections, is due to IPL. Take that away and you only have a Little Modi left.

    Very nice essay.

Tell us what we want to hear

Comment on Rediff. The message was in response to Nandita Sen’s film Firaaq, which deals with the aftermath of Gujrat Riots in the lives of different protagonists.

Please stop making movies on Hindu-Muslim issues. Enough is enough. These movies are now spreading hatred more than entertaining ppl.

What happened to the creativity? Imagination? dead or what?

By the way, creativity does not mean making SRK dance with 4-5 models in pathetically composed songs...

Mr. Satpute, hats off to you, for putting your half-formed thoughts in such brutally punctuated words.

Please do not dismiss Mr. Satpute as a philistine. I for one can easily see Mr. Satpute’s thoughts in many colleagues and families. (note: no friends thankfully). These are what the majority of educated Indians view cinema, and art, as: Something to entertain and not put forth disturbing questions. Meaning and creativity confined by our acceptance of the world-picture and willingness to confront the multiplicative-ambiguities of perspectives and contexts. I am sure Mr. Satpute thinks that RDB was cinema at its meaningful best.

In the brilliant column here, Nicholas Kristof has pointed out to recent studies how the net (and I will extend this to the abundance of news bytes across all channels) is used by most of us to just reaffirm our prejudices and not to challenge our world-view. He calls this (I wish I had a daughter I could marry off to this guy for just this phrase) “the reassuring womb of an echo chamber”.

This editorial is limited in scope and deals mainly with how political news is read using the net. But it captures the broad truth about how we the self-appointed intelligentsia surround ourselves with news-bytes and art that confirms to the world-view we inherit from our parents (habitus broadly) and hence why dissonant art forms in our country in the modern times never quite captured the imagination of the country since we are a society designed to survive and not to question and better itself.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday morning haiku

Hell hath no torment than
The knowledge that
Buried in the clutter lies
A fresh pack of cigarettes
But where?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why the hell should Broad apologize?

A man gets shot at, He slams the security arrangement for letting him get into this situation – Now he’s being asked to apologize for this.

Even if Broad migh be mistaken, he is citing his opinion as a victim and not as a security expert declaring the results of an audit.

I think the only way we, the subcontinent, wear our pride is on the sleeves. Our security arrangements suck, people in our slums live like dogs – but you, the white man, can’t say it out. No matter the only representation you get in our movies is cruel British generals, WWF Bob Christo our 70 pound Jeetendra thrashes with his pinkie, white skimpily dressed females as testament to the globalization of our industry – but you can’t stereotype us.

Now, even if you get shot at, you can’t complain. We ask you to come after assuring you no one will shoot at you, but don’t say that we didn’t do our job well if you have to lie sprawled on the floor of a bus for a few inconvenient minutes while bullets whizzed around your ears.

Now see, you have hurt my emotions. I will play on the white man’s guilt of the ICC, and have you apologize. Just you see.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Do not miss the twitch of those sumptuous breasts on "Hat Ke!"

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bailing Out

When does a country stop being your country?

When does a homeland become the land of strangers whose tongues you speak not – or rather who deny the expressions of your own tongue?

Given a somewhat above-average understanding of history than most of the commentator in Rediff and IndianExpress, I would venture to say that I am beginning to understand why Kissinger was so piqued by our “moral pretensions”.

I would like to examine the following news article in question: where a rave party in Bangalore was busted and the apparent crime perpetrated in this case was the distribution of liquor without license and not the belittling of our grand Indian culture.
As a backdrop, we can study the travesty in the press these days regarding the auctioning of Gandhi’s spectacles (I resist the pun) as the pathetic tokenism that the man stands for now.

The crime, as the article points out, was the lack of license for the alcohol. A couple of months back I had to pay a bribe of 25000 for the registration of my apartment in the sub-registrar office under the euphemism of “Miscellaneous charges” around the area where this farmhouse must have lay. In literally broad daylight.
Other than that I have been in India all my life and have trouble buying the argument that the absence of a liquor license can be cause enough for such moral outrage.

So I will assume that the true cause was that rave parties – even without the drugs – are essentially non-Indian since boys and girls interact there and dance and touch eachother and even have sex, their age of consensus be damned.

That it was un-Indian.

Ok. So This is the cause.
Now, I will make a concession for the cretins that in the larger part of Indian culture, boys and girls don’t meet.

This is a question of what is morally acceptable and not – a question subject to social norms of each societal group. Where does the state come in this picture?

Are we a fascist state where the idea of the nation is entrenched in the idea of a single syncretic culture? If so, the idea of India is a farce since India has never been a single culture state. The only argument that kept the nation together in 1956 was the idea that it was possible to be collectively different in the Indian state while still being Indian. Note the emphasis on collective. Individual differences to the mainstream is a hallmark of all modern nations – especially the States. The collective difference is unique to the Indian state as no other modern nation has held such a broad diversity of people within itself and accepted each of its interpretation.
We have more than fifteen official languages, are a declared secular state: in fact, we don’t even have a common civil code to define the way we lead our lives.

If the argument of Indian culture is espoused to forward the idea of India, I am bailing out.
If it has to be a culture based definition, let it be more fine. A culture is rooted in its language and we need to linguistically divide the nation first; and then look at further microcosms.

Going by the comments in the article, I think that the idea of the Indian state – where people can be attacked and paraded on the streets for merely being what they are – where the pillar of modern society, moral relativism, can be so simply uprooted – is nearing the point of failure.
Merely holding elections – where the politicians can conveniently stonewall giving citizens to vote against all of them – does not a democracy make.

Bear in mind that the India of today is not an India that claims rights on its territories through conquest. Instead, we are a former colony that used the argument of “moral rights” to convince our colonisers of letting us go – and while going convinced them that we didn’t need to be severed more than the unavoidable partition and that we were indeed a “one nation”. The idea of that “one nation” was actually an idea – that a nation of harmonious co-existence is indeed possible if all men and cultures within are given the same rights and space.


What is our argument for retaining Kashmir exactly? That both our cultures do not include Valentine’s day?

If a nation is defined by a stipulated national culture, what is our argument against the Tamil Eelam?

The Seven sisters don’t look like most of us, many of them are Christians and many of their activities distinctly un-Indian. Why keep them?

And one last question: is there any un-baptism where one can stop being a reluctant Hindu and more so, an Indian?

Monday, March 09, 2009


"When there is faith and victory in the mind, success can be gained. If the thoughts are weak, there is defeat"

I got a mail from a colleague, a little weak-minded, bearing this signature.

Doesn't this sound like the tripe they feed the mujahideens?

Note the overt masculinity of the message – weak, defeat, victory.

Thoughts are never so weak as when they lose the ability to doubt.

A single-minded pursuit might lead to targets faster and straighter – unencumbered as they are with the multiplicative ambiguities of perceptions and contexts – but it’s at the cost of deceiving our own selves.