Monday, March 26, 2012

Ec lair or ek tum

The funny thing is that I actually thought about Mona Kapoor today while driving down from Nainital. The context was that i had passed a hair salon board bordered by a rather anachronistic Divya Bharti with Katrina Kaif. And I started thinking about Feroze Nadiadwala, and the way producers have with hereoines, and then Boney Kapoor, and finally how Mona Kapoor once attacked Sridevi. And I thought how I must be the only person in the world at the moment who does not know Ms. Mona personally but is thinking about her.
After landing in Lko at one, and checking the net after five days, I find that Ms. Mona Kapoor is dead.

Of all the desperate-for-soundbyte attempts, I recommend this one by TOI, its obit built entirely around tweets, giving us eclairy tidbits from the deceased Ms. Kapoor's life.

I hope when I am dead, my life is not summarized on what toffees I kept on my tables.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

When Goliaths collide

In 1997, a letter from John Le Carre in the Guradian, defending against himself against allegations of being anti-Semite, brought in the ring Salman Rushdie and Hitchens, invoking LeCarre's soft rationalization of the fatwa against Rushdie in 1989.
Oh what a delicious  battle this. And note how LeCarre's arguments already preempt the recent line taken by Chetan Bhagat.
Read Hitchen's opening metaphor! I was grinning imagining Chetan, cleaned out by the legendary Hitchens, trashed like poo in a soiled diaper.
Read here.

(All said and done,I still respect Chetan for sticking out for what he imagines freedom of speech as, even though i heartily disagree with him, and taking a stance. I believe that the Rushdie fatwa has been misused by certain rightwing elements for their own agenda, people who are as much enemies of "freedom of speech" as the ayatollah. Freedom is a rather tricky concept to understand because, many  times, the restraints lie not within the society but within us. Freedom is a dizzying plunge into a never-ending abyss of possibilities, negations, and regenerations, and not many of us want to walk to the edge of that cliff.  But it does strike me funny how he believes he sometimes "provokes" in his writings - illustrative how, like that frog in the well, our worldview seems so secure in its definitions, even in its accepted "provocations, when we choose not to imagine it beyond what we inherit.

From Satanic Verses:
“Question: What is the opposite of faith
Not disbelief. Too final, certain, closed. Itself is a kind of belief. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Jog back the memory lane - Teen Deviyan in JLTA couple of year

s back, Faiz and I landed at JLT and had a blast. One of the sessions we attended for laughs was called "Teen Deviyan" featuring three young female authoresses - Ira Trivedi, Anjum Hassan and Meenaxi Madhavan Reddy. Ira owned the session with a whisker-licking easy and Anjum was, really, in the wrong panel altogether and Meenaxi seemed to have a glossophobic attack as she read from her book.
This scouring article appeared on The DNA the next page and ever since I have always kept an eye open for anything by G Sampath. 
I do believe, given that I was a witness, this is brilliant writing. It is brief, simply written, and offers a delicious glimpse of what transpired without turning vicious.
Sometimes, as writers, we tend to overload the text with metaphors and twisted convoluted qualifiers. this article is an exercise how the same can be achieved, even bettered, if the message is intact. 

Time was when writers were scruffy-looking, unkempt individuals, who dressed strangely, smoked endlessly and suffered from alcoholism (or looked like they did). Their glamour most certainly did not - with some exceptions — stem from their looks.
You were attracted to their books before you engaged with their looks. At the Jaipur Literature festival, it’s been the reverse — you run into a wildly pretty woman and then scurry to find out what book she has written. This year, it is strikinghow extraordinarily pretty and well-toned the writer community has become.
Perhaps there is a secret cult of fitness fanatics for whom writing is part of a wholistic ‘wellness’ routine, like pilates and meditation.
How else does one account for the fact that the younger women writers all look like — and have the proportions of — models? As for some of the men strutting about like prize bulls, one gets the distinct impression that they put in more energy into their workouts than into their works.
You can’t help but wonder if there is some kind of inverse correlation between a writer’s looks and the quality of her prose — the worser the book, the more glamorous and attractive an author has to be.
To test this hypothesis out here at the Festival, I decided to rank all the female authors around in terms of their looks (I’m neither qualified nor interested in doing this exercise for male authors).
Right at the top, is former Miss India contestant Ira Trivedi. If a photographer can achieve an orgasm by sheer clicking, many surely attained it this evening at the Diggi palace, as she simpered and flirted with Chetan Bhagat in the session titled ‘Teen Deviyan’.
Her lush dark hair hung exactly as they had been trained to. If only she could have just sat there, like that, forever. No, she had to open her beautiful little mouth.
Anyways (to use a favourite word of Trivedi’s), if you really want to test out my hypothesis for yourself, I invite you to buy her brilliant book, The Great Indian Love Story, and read it — read it right till the end no matter what.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Softening the face of evil

I get really uncomfortable when a piece of history, represented by an imagery or a quote, gets appropriated and included in a work of art without the work attempting to understand the context of that piece. Like this new Hitler chic fad. Or, Che Guevera T-shirts being sold for 1500 in an American owned-brand store in a centre-city mall.

I believe greatly in the power of irreverent humour, of taking something sacred, and smashing it to pieces to exposes the hollow inside. As I read somewhere, we laugh loudest at things that most concern us. All institutions become stupider and stupider since their very nature is to self-preserve, and deny the dismantling of dialectical change. The older they are and the more obdurate they remain in their “faith”, the stupider they become, and the more the need to challenge them with irreverence. Humour, as a device, measures these institutions against the ever-changing conditions and values of our existence and leads to a constant cycle of creative destruction. However, before we lift the crowbar, it is our responsibility to first understand what exactly we are dismantling.
There have been many genocides through history. Many have been responsible for more deaths than Hitler. The great religions (the Inquisitions are estimated to have killed 60 million people), Genghis Khan, the prolonged massacre of the American Indians, and many others we will never know because no witness, no evidence was left. However, we can now view and appraise them from a cold distance because we live in a largely different world than the worlds these men lived in. Genghis Khan was not a war-criminal in his time, merely a rather vehement conqueror. The tortures and massacres in the name of religions were justified in those societies whose foundation stone remained the very religion, and not the principles of universal and fundamental rights that most modern societies are built on. The massacre of the Indians has sunk into a large collective unconsciousness. When America talks about the foundation “this country was built on”, they ignore the blood and bones crushed beneath those very stones. But even John Wayne now cannot get away with justifying that brutal beginning of American history (“I don't feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”)
Hitler however still remains relevant to us because he engineered the biggest genocide of our own modern age. His legacy was not merely the murder of European Jew, gypsies, political dissidents, but a cold precise, even impersonal, system to achieve the same. Legacy of those concentration camps, as John Updike describes in Towards the End of Time as “those orderly death camps in the middle of the last century which ended forever Europe’s concept of itself as civilized and of the Western world as proceeding under a benign special Providence”.
Stalin is dead and so is, largely, that ugly face of communism. Unfortunately, Hitler, the ugly ideas of Nationalism Socialism he stood for, are still alive. Read Umberto Eco’s great essay that defines fascism, and you realize that the ideas which oppose minority rights, diversity, dissent, intellectuals and propound the violent imposition of a syncretistic faith, are still very much in our midst. And I am not talking about only the skinheads.  
If we choose to make a simulacrum of Hitler’s face, casting aside his hideously inhuman legacy of ideas - of a politics that methodically kills all dissent and difference, that glorifies a mythical past and molds every face and mind to that hideous ideal - what stops us then to extend this to using the swastika or a photographic print of the concentration-camp inmates as a Tshirt logo? Or a battered rape victim or a killed female fetus? Because they’re visually disturbing? Exactly. In the same manner, while Hitler’s face might not be, arguably, disturbing enough, the ideas he stood for and which still remain very relevant to us are many times more disturbing than the ones I mentioned. 

To paraphrase Eco: "We must keep alert, so that the sense of these words will not be forgotten again." And images, if I might add. Chaplin used his own likeness of Hitler to juxtapose the littleness of the man against the impact he was having on the lives of millions. And that’s why he would remain a bigger artist than Matisse who secluded himself from this greatly inconvenient war to paint his beautiful, voluptuous but lifeless paintings.

I am not a fascist. I believe in creative license and if somebody does decide to print a Nazi T-shirt all I can do is shake my head and still support their right to print that T-shirt. It’s only the cycle of ignorance it perpetuates that worries me, because in the bedrock of this doesn’t-concern-me ignorance is found these very evil ideas.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Take a hike

If you enter the boss' cabin demanding a raise, and he tells you to 'Go, take a hike', do you get that hike, or no?