I came across this song called New Year’s Eve from this band called Dengue Fever. It sounded like the background music a movie set in Hong Kong in the kitschy ’60s and ’70s with a theme around young people directed by Wong Kar-Wai would have. I don’t really follow Tarantino’s movies, but most people I know seemed to say “sounds like the soundtrack of a Tarantino movie set in eastern Asia”.
I didn’t really pay it all that much attention. I downloaded the album the song was on called Sleepwalking Through The Mekong and rather liked those songs, but I didn’t do much else about that. Dengue Fever seemed rather indie, and back then didn’t seem to have a working website. Further, I immersed myself into whatever Last.fm recommended to me. Which seemed to be a lot of Celtic. Then I went through a phase where gregorian chants were the only things that gave me that epic feeling of importance while coding.
A few weeks ago, I started listening to Dengue Fever again. Then I found their website (that worked, it wasn’t working before), and their Facebook page which they seem to update regularly. From Youtube’s auto-generated playlists of the most popular songs of the band, I discovered they have more than just a couple of albums to their name. Their earlier albums are in Khmer – the language spoken in Cambodia. I like this song called Tip My Canoe from Sleepwalking Through the Mekong. But their more recent songs are in English as well. Check out this song called Mr. Bubbles, which roughly is my favourite of theirs.
I looked up the band, and realized they aren’t just some Cambodian band. They are a bunch of folks based in southern California. Zac Holtzman (a decidedly non-Cambodian name) was in Cambodia when his friend fell ill with dengue fever, and they hitched a ride on a truck to get him to the hospital, and the folks in the truck were playing old Khmer rock songs that decidedly sounded psychedelic, probably more so under the influence of a fever. He picked up a few of those tapes and found that his brother in California was coincidentally listening to the same music. And, a band was born. No, wait, they went to Long Beach near LA, to this area called Little Phnom Penh, where they found a fresh-from-Cambodia singer called Chhom Nimol (whose family seems to be full of famous singers in Thailand now). And then the band was born.
So there I was, totally amazed at the sort of sound these people had, so utterly psychedelic, so evocative of a Far-Eastern movie that tries to incorporate the best of the West into it, probably made with a very young Jackie Chan. I can’t wait for their new albums. I can’t wait for them to perform in the tri-state area, and wishing I’d gone to one of their performances when I still lived in Orange County.
By now, Last.fm is recommending me similar songs. And just like that, I come across this song called Jam 5 Kai Thiet, by a singer called Ros Sereysothea.
If you listened to that, you’ll find it sounds the same as New Year’s Eve by Dengue Fever which I linked to in the first line of this post. I was shocked, pissed, and feeling a little let down. So these guys were just covering old Cambodian songs? Is that the only reason why their music sounds so authentic?
I listened to that entire album Jam 5 Kai Thiet was from. It’s called Cambodian Rocks. It has a lot of nice gems. Like any random sample of songs from any era, there are godawful ones, and godawesome ones. With this album, the number of godawesome ones totally trumps any of the sucky songs.
I find it hard to match song to title, given I don’t know any Khmer that I can at the very least distinguish one word from another, but I find the songs all growing on me. I rather like this one called Yuvajon Kouge Jet or Broken-Hearted Man. The one I’ve found the catchiest is this one called Maok Pi Naok or Where from?. There’s this old-timey, innocent, carefree air about the singers’ voices in that particular song. This one called Twist makes me want to dance.
I did try listening to newer Khmer songs and songs from other genres in that same era, but they sounded rather ordinary, not commanding of attention like this album. Chhom Nimol’s siblings’ songs in Khmer/Thai (well, they are all famous in Thailand, so not sure if they sing in Khmer) don’t quite match to Dengue Fever’s sound.
The bulk of the songs in that album seemed to have been sung by these singers called Ros Sereysothea and Sinn Sisamouth. And also Pan Ron. When I looked them up on Wikipedia, it broke my heart to learn that they were killed in labour camps during Pol Pot’s regime in Cambodia.
Not just them. Most of the singers on that album seemed to have met their end during the Khmer Rouge period, as they were artists and performers and were well-educated, two things that automatically qualified them as enemies of the Khmer Rouge. It didn’t help Sinn Sisamouth’s case that he started singing protest songs against the Khmer Rouge.
For perspective, imagine for a second an alternate universe where Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber were killed by the government they lived under.
I’ve only read about the horrible regime of Pol Pot. I don’t have the stomach to watch The Killing Fields. But imagine going from singing such cheery, carefree songs, incorporating the latest trends from the West, having a great entertainment scene, to the government killing 21% of the country. Cambodia even today doesn’t seem to have a vibrant movie industry. The arts are good as dead because an entire generation of artists and performers were executed, and another generation scarred and impoverished that revival seems hard. And today, Cambodia is essentially under a dictatorship, so free speech, which is integral to arts, is dealt with with an iron fist. Movie theaters, which were plentiful before the Khmer Rouge are derelict now, going by the Wiki page (I also came across an article talking about Cambodia’s entry for the Best Foreign Film category at the Oscars this year). I wonder how long it would take for a nation to recover from that sort of a blow. And I don’t mean just the entertainment industry.
I’m not under any illusion that pre-PolPot Cambodia was paradise. Or that the people who live there now live in utter hell. But why did change have to be so damaging?
Either way, it’s really great there’s a band like Dengue Fever that actually sells records and performs at various places. It’s not just about preserving the psychedelica of that era. It’s not even about the legacy the singers from back then left behind, though it’s wonderful to know that psychedelica is taken to a whole new level when it’s sung in a nasal voice and recorded through a broken mic. It’s more than that.
It’s about how someone like me with no hint of Khmer becomes aware that someone like Sinn Sisamouth existed, and why he died. About someone like me becoming sensitive to the level to which a country has fallen and is trying to pick itself up. And if someone as lazy and disinterested as me can get this sensitized with just a few clicks of a mouse, I’m pretty sure a lot of others can too. It might not mean much, but the next time there’s a news article about Cambodia, it might get more comments than usual on the NY Times website… which might translate into more coverage, and maybe when Cambodia has its Khmer Spring, we tweet enough about it to make it trend, enough for our governments to probably have a more populist official position on it.
I don’t believe in the power of online activism. I doubt sincerely that liking stuff on Facebook will bring down governments. But it sure does make it easier for us to be aware of things around us, and make more informed decisions when we have to.
Also, the music is catchy as hell.
The whole Jan Lokpal agitation brings me to write about politics after a long, long time.
It was partly intentional, this hiatus. There was a point when I was intensely political, but I discovered I was getting my blood pressure up every morning when I read the paper or the zillion rabble-rousing political blogs I was subscribed to, and even more so when I discussed the stuff I read with like-minded friends over lunch. Then more interesting things came along, and I thought I should give those things a fair try, and all I did with politics was to make jokes about current or past events.
But Anna Hazare drags me back.
Not just me, but various others are newly politically conscious. People who didn’t used to watch the news now watch the tamasha. People read newspapers more avidly now. More people talked about Rule 184 than about Rule 34 over the past couple of weeks.
I want to try and make sense of this craziness that has gripped the country.
It’s not a matter of surprise that a Gandhian with a rather universal single-point agenda gathers so much of a mob-like fan following… Gandhian, Fasting, Saying No To Corruption… predictable outcome. Why, even the famed dabbawalas of Mumbai struck work in a show of solidarity with him! It’s also not much of a surprise that the media are all gaga about him…. this is the guy who decided to break his fast in the past because the media couldn’t get to his village, and he has rather astute media advisors now, I’d imagine.
The real wonder here was that people don’t seem to have just a ‘Let’s what the tamasha’ sort of an attitude to this. You can give a movement all the publicity in the world, but the sort of attention it draws can only depend on its content. This is not one of those candlelight march sort of things, nor is it the ‘change your Facebook profile pic to Anna Hazare’ sort of thing. People seem genuinely into this. A friend of my sister’s wanted to go to Freedom Park and fast on her birthday. A seventeen-year-old. Fasting. On her birthday. Freedom Park. That’s some serious shite.
I really wonder why.
Every twenty or so years, some or the other movement seems to come to the forefront, mobilize youth and grown folk alike, throw up a few heroes and induct many more workers, who all go on to be the next generation of politicians. There was the Freedom movement at first, then the Jayaprakash Narayan one, where a lot of people who are at the forefront in politics today cut their teeth – Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Laloo Yadav, George Fernandes, Subramanian Swamy… and various others. Then we had Mandal and Ayodhya. Now, this.
I wonder what’s behind this phenomenon (If it can be judged as one.. I think I’m concluding too much from too little, but given that people conclude so much more from so much less usually, bear with me). I assume it has something to do with there being a whole new generation of youth with no political moorings every twenty years. Now I have my rightist political moorings, I’ve done my share of taking politics seriously and general rabble-mongering, even if it was only on numerous Orkut communities and this blog… if I had been a part of something bigger when I was in that phase, say, in the 2009 elections, there’s a good chance I’d've been interning with a political party… but that didn’t happen. The point is, I know where to direct my greviances now. I know who to vote for. Reading works of politicians and watching people like Subramanian Swamy use the system well has reinforced my faith in the system. It isn’t so for a lot of youth. They don’t know what to do, who to address with their ‘It’s the system, man!’ frustrations. I guess the glut in the number of such youth has peaked around now or something, due to which so many of them seem to identify with India Against Corruption. Right place, right time.
If the glut had occurred two years back, Lok Paritran or some such Youth-y party would have been the beneficiary of this largesse of political feeling. And if the glut was a few years away, Anna Hazare would have just been a joke and everyone would have dismissed Kejriwal as the guy in the last bench who thinks he’s going against the system whenever he back-talks a teacher.
What I’m saying is, the movement doesn’t find the people, the people find the movement. It is inevitable that we have some mass movement every now and then that the country needs to cool off all the latent political emotion.
So what can we do with this? This is just a hunch… more empirical study would be a good thing to have on this. If this hypothesis is indeed found to be true, political parties should watch for signs and then make sure to capitalize on this feeling of ‘revolution’ by recruiting heavily in colleges and urban centers. They can also fan this feeling of insecurity and make the country go to the poll just when this seems to be boiling over, and capitalize on it. A nice tool to have in their arsenal.
And now the more important question. Corruption? Seriously? What’s the deal? Aren’t we all corrupt at some level? Don’t the bribe-takers also come from the same places as we do? Do we really need an ombudsman?
I did used to think that there’s no point of a LokPal. Any ombudsman can be easily compromised, every man has a price. There’s no way this could stop big-ticket corruption. Why then, are people supporting this bill, apart from that they are all Sheeple?
I get reminded of the Jayanagar 4th Block RTO and the Registrar’s office. You couldn’t for the heck of you get anything done in either of those places without paying a bribe. The areas outside of these places used to be overrun with touts. Everyone there was corrupt, head to toe, end to end. I remember telling my mother about a classmate whose father worked at the RTO, following which my mother gave a look of disgust and said “Yeah, plenty of bribe money”.
And then the LokAyukta struck. They suspended a ton of people (or recommended for them to be suspended, and those recommendations were implemented), got in newer people from elsewhere, and those places remained clean for, I’d like to think, atleast a few years.
The allure of an independent entity is that they have few, if any, vested interests in that place, and are immune to influence because they aren’t in the system. It is easier for them to view these instances of corruption as just cases to be solved or people to be apprehended, and go about their job without worrying about interference. This is the side of an Independent Entity that people want to see. And these ‘new officers without vested interest’ have been successful in more than a few places, including movies, that people really want to give it a try.
Of course, not all is hunky-dory with getting a LokPal… those folks are human too, and they too can succumb to cold hard cash offered, and no way can they be very useful to counter big-ticket corruption.
And petty corruption is not something that takes place only with the bureaucrats… a couple of hundred when you’re speeding, a couple more to move files a little bit more faster, a few here and there because you’re lazy to get that document done and you need to get that government office work done today… that’s not new to any of us, is it? Especially since we know as well as the civil servants we bribe that it’s hard to sustain a family on that kind of a salary.
I’m ambivalent on the Lokpal thing, but I do know that automating things can go a long way in checking corruption. Take the human element out of everything, let everything just be a form you need to fill online, let every ration shop be a bunch of vending machines where you swipe your card, enter your PIN and get your dole. If you jump a red light, let the ticket come to your house after finding out your address from your license plate. Let there be emission test gates where you swipe your emission test certificate, failing which you need to pay a fine. Or have these police station kiosks where you have a videoconference sort of a thing with some police officer somewhere in the country who takes down your complaint, to use which you need your biometric ID. If there’s no human who controls what you get, neither can you bribe him, nor can he ask you for a bribe. And if you have any problems, you’ll be interacting with a call center guy somewhere who you have no clue about, and which call will possibly be monitored for quality control purposes.
There’s no way you can pass a couple of hundred under the table there. I’m sure people will find kickass ways to send and receive bribes, but we’ll deal with those when we get there.
What’s more, this will create a new generation of people who have no clue about how to go about bribing officers, and a bunch of officers who have no way to take bribes and are unfamiliar with the practice. It’d take a ton of stepping out of their comfort zone to do either of those things. So there.
And systemic reforms too. There’s CET which makes sure the meritorious get into a good college, but what about the ones with bad luck in the exams, who feel entitled to more because they had a perfect track record, but screwed up their math paper? They’ll obviously book seats in colleges, pay touts a heck load of money… unless you make a KSIT the same level as RVCE, unless there’s no steep gradient in the quality of institutions, this will definitely happen. There will obviously be a bunch of people who feel the system has screwed them over. The point of a well-designed system is to keep the proportion of such people low, because if they gain substantial strength, they will find extra-systemic means to gain what they want.
That apart, Kiran Bedi seems hormonal. I feel sorry for her having come to this point. It was so ironic that she was on the other side of the bars in Tihar. She’s one of those unfortunate people who have been totally screwed over by the system. Stay positive, Ms. Bedi, you still have a lot of spunk left in you.
And yeah, I’m a newly-minted fan of Dr. Subramanian Swamy, after his efforts in the 2G case. He seems totally badass and Machiavellian, an inspiring example of someone who uses the system to achieve his ends instead of simply ranting about it.
And his older daughter Gitanjali Swamy seems super inspiring in her own right… IITK Compsci, Berkeley PhD, Prof at Columbia and Harvard, and a string of startups… what’s not to admire?
I didn’t know about Baba Ramdev until I came back to NITK after second year break to find my roommate expertly doing Yoga routines every morning. She had learnt it from Aastha TV, apparently. I was transfixed, and quite skeptical.
I was (and am) deeply skeptical of anyone who promises instant moksha or teaches everything in ‘easy ways’…. and I react sharply to people learning life-changing stuff from someone on TV. One reason is because one size doesn’t fit all, especially with respect to things that are supposed to influence your health, or belief systems. So while I’d seen Baba Ramdev on Aastha while changing channels, I’d not paid much attention to him.
It took me that long to find out just how much influence he had on the Hindi-speaking parts of the country. And from what I saw and heard, he didn’t seem the selfish charlatan sorts or a fly-by-night operator, both of which I’ve come across quite often.
I’ve not come across such good use of the mass media which actually works. There are these science lessons on some obscure radio station I’ve come across in Bangalore, and radio doctor programmes, but I’ve not seen any equivalent for television. And for just that, the Baba has my *respect* .
His views on homosexuality are unfortunate and questionable to say the least, and deserve much ridicule, but are not uncommon; I’m willing to bet over half of the urban educated folk who ridicule those views of his are homophobic to some (great) degree.
Going over his asking for death penalties for corruption and stuff, I fully agree he doesn’t know what he’s going on about. There are tons of articles lampooning his seemingly unreasonable demands, and it’s pretty easy to come up with a http://www.ramdevwants.com on the lines of chucknorrisfacts or schneierfacts, ['item #23416: Baba Ramdev wants a One Macbook Per Child project subsidized by the government'], but I strangely don’t want to do that [But if you do, please do credit me on the website]. There’s a saying by Tina Fey that if you aim for the moon, you’ll atleast get to Houston. [No, she didn't say that, I did, yesterday when I was discussing politics in a state of half-sleep]. If you want a bicycle, you need to ask for an Activa.
You need to put forth unreasonable demands so that the majority of the nation feels ‘OMG, that’s crazy, he should be asking for [list of more reasonable demands]‘. If you put forth just [list of reasonable demands], no one, least of all, the media, is going to notice it. And in this era of information explosion, I can personally testify that you don’t hear about stuff unless it is very good or very bad. If you want to capture the imagination of the nation, you have to be outrageous. You have to out-crazy the craziness the media generally follows.
Additionally, even in spite of demands that completely make no sense, he has such a lot of support. That is because it provides a lot of people a way to channel the outrage they feel, especially since those areas are where the government and bureaucracy matters and corruption affects whom much more than it matters to those of us in big cities. Such a grassroots-level mass uprising hasn’t happened in a long while, and it’s long overdue especially given what the center is doing to us in its UPA-II avatar. Such a public show of support for an idea is essential to nudge the middle class out of its complacence.
Now I certainly don’t support death penalty for corrupt people. But I also don’t support all the outrage that was spilled when Ram Jethmalani agreed to be Manu Sharma’s lawyer. The defining bit of a democracy is that people have liberty to go wrong, and be assumed innocent till they are proven guilty. To err is human and everyone could do with a chance to better themselves, and every punishment should fit the crime. In that way, the trial-by-media that ensued after Jessica Lall’s murder was no different from a lynch mob or a khap.
There’s got to be these incidents that let a democracy blow off steam and let them know what they feel deep inside. It’ll be crazy, it’ll be asking too much, it’ll be completely unreal. But it needs to happen. You need the crazy ideas and exaggerations to drive home the points, to soften people up to listening to the saner ideas. Like in Stranger in a Strange land, to get the nurse to put a single bug on the alien’s door, the reporter gives a chapter-long list of possible doomsday-ish scenarios.
Now I’ll sincerely hope the Baba doesn’t take to standing in elections or anything like that; the last thing we want is the anti-Congress votes being split. But we certainly require incidents like this to serve as our wake up calls, especially at a time when people think their duty is over when they ‘Like’ a Facebook community against corruption. Maybe one day it’ll strike us all that when we say “Yeah, the Lokpal proposals are outrageous, but they can certainly be improved’, that we can also similarly ‘improve’ existing laws and provisions against corruption and other things, such that a Lokpal Bill won’t even be necessary. Maybe it’ll dawn upon us that we can have a Uniform Civil Code. Or a stronger anti-terrorism law. Or make it easier for entrepreneurs to set up new businesses. Or build newer and better roads. Or strengthen primary education.
PS: What happened to that Lead India guy, RK Misra? He seemed to be one of those street-smart fellas who knew to play to the gallery while making his points heard… I totally enjoyed him on a panel discussion at NITK. He joined BJP I know, but we haven’t heard a peep out of him since then…. what’s he doing now?
PPS: I wonder what Dr. Rajeev Gowda’s opinions on Jairam Ramesh’s ‘IIMs Suck’ comments are. I ask for Dr. Rajeev Gowda because he’s a Congress guy, while also being a prof at IIMB (and an excellent quizzer too).. his perspective would be an interesting and enlightening one. Did no mediapersons think of posing this question to him?
Folks who know me from childhood will assert I was not an easy child to feed. My mother and her mother struggled hard to keep me well-nutritioned. In fact, my mother has so much practice that I’m pretty confident if she was on the UPA’s side, by now Anna Hazare would have quit crying about Lokpal or another one of his imaginary pals and go to sleep well-fed.
All that exposure to wholesome food is hard to get over. I’ve always eaten well save second year at NITK… It’s impossible to get unused to filling your craw every few hours with something or the other. Which is why my desk drawer always, always has some assortment of junk food and my fridge is well-stocked. Touchwood. I can’t for the heck of me fast.The system is always being fed at regular intervals. It doesn’t stock up on adipose because there’s no need to; the next source of energy will not be long in coming.
But a couple of weeks back, I’d just gotten done with a killer course and wanted to let myself off a few days, where I could just sleep and eat and watch movies and all that. I did end up watching a lot of chickflicks. Which is why I didn’t sleep much more than usual. But eat….. ahh…. that’s a story.
Living by yourself (or with a roommate whose culinary requirements are way different from yours) means nothing moves unless you move it. And your larder will not be stocked unless you stock it. And food will not magically appear until you make it. But given that I had resigned myself to a vegetative state, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about all the dosas, uthappams, sandwiches, burritos, palyas and other things I usually am enthusiastic about, and that increased how lazy I was to even eat. I think I had only about 33% of what I had everyday. So while I wasn’t technically fasting, for my body, which rings its alarm bells rather loudly at regular intervals, it was a reasonable approximation.
The point is, there was no lasting damage to me or my appetite or anything. I did feel weak after I got bored of the movies, but it wasn’t anything one square meal couldn’t fix. I’m sure if I was outside for a greater part of the day, I would have groaned in hunger and taken refuge in pizza, but given that all I was doing was wasting time on the Internet, watching movies and talking to friends, my calorie intake pretty much sufficed.
So I find it hard to figure out why the government caved in so early to Anna Hazare’s blackmail. I mean, this guy has made a career out of threatening to go hungry. He’s used to days without food. What’s more, he was in the damn Army, and I’m pretty sure their constitutions are sturdier than mine, and they’ll be used to standing in the sun without food for hours on end. So…. his threat doesn’t really strike me as a threat. More so since people of less sturdier constitutions go hungry not by their own will but because they don’t have the resources to procure food, and still continue to survive. Agreed, Anna Hazare is thrice my age, but I’m the desk job person who has to actually try to gain weight and goes to the rec center just so that I don’t forget what it is to run, and he is the one who has built a model village with his own hands.
The trick to starving well is to not remind yourself or your body that you need food. You need to keep yourself distracted, but not too active. You shouldn’t indulge in tasks that require much physical exertion or mental flexing. So solving differential equations is out, as is taking a long walk in the sun. Even more so, you shouldn’t indulge in this for more than maybe a few minutes at a time. Ideally, you would have to breathe correctly from your stomach to keep the circulation to your brain up so that you don’t get a headache from the lack of food, and to not tire your eyes, it would be helpful to go into a vegetative – oops – meditative state.
Now what exactly do these fasters do that violate these things? They sit in a public place, that’s it. They might make speeches, but that just keeps them distracted and not thinking about the food. They pretty much suspend their day-to-day activities. And they aren’t even exposed to the hot sun; their followers make sure of that. People, the sun is the biggest enemy to lack of food. The hotter your head gets, the hungrier you get. If you are not facing the sun, half your troubles are avoided while fasting. And I suppose no one watching the show would even be eating. I dare Anna Hazare to carry on his fast-unt0-death in a crowded restaurant, where the smell of well-cooked food assails his nostrils. Or to do his day-to-day work while not eating a morsel… that makes sense.
When we think of hunger strike, we think of the said person requiring the number of calories we require on a day when we’re going about doing our work. It doesn’t strike us that someone who is just sitting around in a comfortable environment requires far lesser number of calories and hence the not eating doesn’t affect them as much as we think it does.
On a related note, I suppose everyone assumes Gandhi had his simple diet which did not consist of milk or sweets or anything ostentatious. ‘He lived on fruits’ sounds so austere. I used to assume that too, until I came across some magazine where a former assistant of Gandhi’s was talking about his last day. The description of the morning meal baffled me. True, it consisted only of fruits, but heck, how much? Five oranges, three large tomatoes, several apples and a bunch of bananas to finish off, along with some juice as well. And possibly goat’s milk to tide over that technicality of his not having cow’s milk, but I’m not sure that was included. I sometimes have a single banana with milk for breakfast when I’m late for class, and I know several people who go without breakfast.
Till age 14, I could not imagine myself ever observing Ekadashi fasts – no grains in diet, but it turned out, the no grains is a technicality to be tided over – you can as easily have delicacies made of sabudana, as I learnt from a pro-at-ekadashi-fasts sort of person. Apart from the litres of milk and the kilograms of fruits, of course.
So heck, the next time someone says “He’s on a diet of onlyyyy fruits and still is so active!”, I’m going to sock them one. Even though it’ll be a rather weak punch because I only eat cereals, vegetables, lentils and junk…. beat this… my sister and I quit junk food for a while and snacked only on fruits, and it turned out we felt less lethargic, more active and more alert, even without coffee or Red Bull. Or maybe especially without.
The point I make after 1200 words here is, hunger strike is not a big deal until you’re at it for a week or something, if you are not indulging in any activity during it. All that it serves is to publicize your cause.
But even that is pretty suspect…. Irom Sharmila has been hungerstriking and has been force-fed for 10 years now, and the media is pretty tired and is pretty much ignoring her and her cause. And hunger strikes don’t always work…. which is why they are not so common. And read this piece by Manu Joseph, it’s pretty harsh on Anna Hazare, but it points out that he does the hunger thing mainly because he seeks publicity for his causes. I mean, if not the publicity surrounding him, why else will the country bother about yet another person dying of hunger?
I’m writing this in darkest hour. No, not metaphorically like that.. just that dawn is an hour or so away. My body clock is rather messed up, and I’m stuck about whether to embrace it or to go on the warpath and try to set it ‘right’, right here meaning the sort that’ll wake a few hours before noon and sleep somewhere on the good side of midnight. I’m afraid to upset the delicate balance I’ve created, but I also crave the productivity of the morning hours. It’s not like I’ve not tried setting it ‘right’… I’ve tried over so many weekends, to sleep it off or keep awake, but something or the other always, always messes it up.
Talking of which, I have a vague, vague wish I were in Egypt two weeks back. Some detox from the Internet is what I need, yeah, but I can’t voluntarily detox now when I’m actually awaiting a lot of stuff in my inbox. I can’t pull a danah boyd (Lack of capitalization intentional. That’s how she spells her name) and ask everyone to email me a week hence. Not just yet.
However, I don’t even remotely wish I was Egyptian over the past week. Uprising and all is great, but volatility kills me, it just kills me. I cannot take the excitement of a pregnant pause, the cusp of something totally different, the uncertainty in what’s coming next. And yes, I’m going through a bit of that for a few other reasons. I think if I were in Egypt, I’d've broken a window, set something on fire, thrown a Molotov cocktail at an armyman…. something to spark off all the latent tension.
I just can’t take uncertainty.
And all the stuff about how the Internet helps organize mobs… y’know what, uncoordinated publicity, hashtags and all that can only incite mob frenzy. Nothing more. If anything gets done, it’s in the frenzy of a mob. And it can also be easily defused. Expecting 10k likes to translate into 1k people on the streets is too much, let alone expecting 10k people on the streets based on some Facebook community. The reason all these things looking like they work are because they place great weights on things that don’t take much for people to do. Sounds pretty disjoint coming from me at this time in the night/morning, but it was very lucidly said by Malcolm Gladwell in an opinion piece I can’t seem to find now.
I’ve pretty much lost faith in humanity, so I don’t expect the outcomes of the ‘revolutions’ dotting the Arab world to lead to any larger good for the countries or for the rest of us. As long as there are people to be exploited, there will be tinpot dictators, slavedriver bosses, bossy spouses, martinet teachers.
And heck, if anyone’s nice to me, or anything good happens, I just don’t take it well. I am constantly looking for the price-tag, the downside, the catch… it’s good, in a way, I’ve to admit.
Y’know how it is when you hate things for absolutely no reason? Yeah. It pays to try finding out why exactly you hate these things, and for writing it down somewhere for posterity. Otherwise you’re wont to hear one mindblowing talk and say “Heck, why didn’t I consider this career option? What was I smoking?”, and kick yourself for weeks together till the reason is staring at you in the face and you say “Oh, yeah, that’s why”. Save yourselves the trouble, children.
Also, the reason you pick a career is not because you love the awesome stuff… anyone can love that, but you pick one because you like the boring stuff about the job as well. Like the endless waiting for code to finish compiling, or the thrill of reading a dozen papers on a topic and categorizing them, or dodging the paparazzi or singing the same note for three hours to get it right.
Short book review: I read Ryu Murakami’s Almost Transparent Blue. Fellas, don’t mistake Ryu Murakami for Haruki Murakami. Also, this book is absolutely not for everyone. Puke-worthy. And worse, pointless. Though, I must say, writing’s okay.
Oh, and the DA’s office decided to press charges against 11 students belonging to the Muslim Students Association for planning a disruption of the Israeli ambassador’s speech here last year. Looking at this, I wonder if my earlier stance on the need for student activism was misplaced. It suddenly seems like the right thing to do is to go to class like a good kid and keep away from any sort of trouble. I don’t know if it would have been just like this if it was a more protesty campus like Berkeley instead of goody-two-shoes Irvine… what do you say? As for facts, while I didn’t attend the talk, you can read this article here.
And, well, I’ve been at the receiving end of some racism as well over the past week. I don’t want to talk about it, and the perpetrator was someone well-known to be racist and well-known as the Department Jerk, so it’s not a reflection on attitudes here in general (though I’ve also heard tales of a racist European here), more so since the jerk was told off quite quickly by folks around me. I was very very pissed, and still am, and while it irks me that I’m not displaying any backbone here by making the Jerk’s life miserable, the more I think about it, the more it seems to not be worthwhile. More so since it seems more of a display of jerk-ism than racism.
Then… I’ve sort of been attending these Women In Computer Science events on campus. I’d love to go to those conferences, but haven’t got an opportunity yet, so just the campus stuff for now. While it’s great that these spunky undergrads are taking initiatives to get highschool girls interested in computer science, I have mixed feelings about another aspect of this. I find I am not too comfortable with the whole “Computer science doesn’t mean being a nerd, y’know” line. Especially when that is peddled about to get girls interested in stuff like Informatics and technical writing and software testing. For one thing, it makes Informatics, technical writing and software testing look like the poor cousins of ‘real Computer Science’. For another, it says folks in computer science are nerds and for some reason, being a nerd is a bad thing, and more so if you are a girl.
If your girls are not choosing parallel processing and database systems as a career because it requires being a ‘nerd’, there’s something wrong with the whole system, not with the girls. If your society says working hard is a bad thing, or choosing not to do something just because it’s hard is okay, something’s wrong with that attitude. If your society doesn’t reward persistence with anything but social ostracism, there’s something wrong with it, and that’s what you have to work to correct. Not these band-aid measures. Like getting women to do the ‘easier’ jobs in the field and saying ‘Oh, look, we have a fair representation of genders in our workplace’. This is just passing the buck, and it doesn’t solve any damn thing.
That said, I sometimes wonder if I’d've been better off in some artsy job that involved writing features and blurbs and reviews, meeting Marxy members of the literati, talking in abstractions, finding phallic symbols in the opening scene of Lion King, making Free Binayak Sen posters and Tshirts, and sending pink innerwear to some remote address in North Karnataka. That, when I’m not viewing people from other countries as objects in a museum, acting in plays which use just one prop and have plenty of monologues, and lamenting the cloistering morality of the middle classes of India. I possibly wouldn’t have been as analytical as I am now, but maybe that’d be a good thing; it’s blissful to not know the extent of your ignorance about the world.
And then I look at one of those Indian-hippies-discovering-themselves-in-the-US, with their Jayanagar-4th-Block-Pavement junk jewelry, their ill-fitting kurtas and their totally clashing salwars, their desperately-in-need-of-a-comb hairdo, their lack of pride in themselves, and back at my Zen-ish accessorizing, recent trendy haircut, clothes designed to blend in rather than stand out, and strict no-caffeine-as-wake-me-up rule and decide the change is totally not worth it.
In the vacations after my Class XII, I developed a fondness for the Deccan Herald Quick Crossword. So did my mum. We’d crack it together every morning after breakfast. Soon I moved to Surathkal, but we didn’t stop solving the crossword together… those were the hallowed days of free Reliance-to-Reliance calls.
But for the past year, this hobby has suffered a blow. I leave early, and my mum can’t wait to be done with the crossword in the morning… and she can’t call me while doing it, as I’m busy. When I get back home, I see a half-solved crossword with so many scratches and pencil and pen marks I don’t feel like solving it anymore… and when I come home, my mum is out and only comes back a bit later…. so, well… we don’t anymore solve the crossword together.
But of late, we’ve discovered another pastime which doesn’t require a pen and paper, or even as much time as a crossword. All it seems to require is my mum.
Now, mum has this uncanny ability to remember and match faces. So today if she gets a glance at you, and sees your sibling/parent/offspring a year later, she’d say, “Hey, isn’t this the sibling/parent/offspring of the person we saw last year?”. She can match cousins within one level of removedness…. that’s my mum.
So now what I do is I show her images of the Youth Brigade of the UPA government. She tells me who the parent of this young politician is. Like I show her a picture of a Northeast girl, who can pass off as my batchmate… she correctly identifies her as PA Sangma’s daughter. She looks at the huge images of the new Speaker of the Parliament and says “Jagjivan Ram’s daughter”. Same for Jyotiraditya and Sachin. She didn’t have any problem identifying HD Revanna as he was in the same college as her once upon a time.
But that outlier apart, this game is a good bit of fun. I suggest you try it with your parents or grandparents.
My political leanings are well known; I’ve all but yelled it from the rooftops.
And for those of you who were concerned about my state after this…er… shock, I’m fine even expected such an outcome, though not like this.
So, anyway, the following bits are to justify the title. I wanted to actually make it ‘Say it’s not true’, after the Queen+Paul Rodgers song for World AIDS Day, but then this Advani phrase suits it better.
My first concern has been about this evil of reservations. And that there is an order of priority according to religion, to claim the country’s resources. If all goes well in the next three months, and for six-seven years following that, I’ll be free of all this nonsense. But what about the rest of the country? The heart bleeds.
The next thing has been about the blatant selling of our national interest. The N-Deal for one. It should have been renegotiated.
The most important thing however is the security issue. I’ve come close to getting blown to bits, but thankfully escaped.. once was at Forum Mall, another was at Army School. Both places they detonated bombs. And then there was the frenzied set of phonecalls to relatives in Mumbai and those in Delhi. I can (thankfully) only imagine the levels of anguish folks who’ve lost loved ones in terror attacks go through. I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. I can’t bear to watch millions of innocent lives being compromised for cheap motives like staying in power.
And then there’s the issue of Assam and the North-East. The place is overrun by illegal immigrants, a potential security threat. And everyone concerned as of now, apart from the BJP and maybe the AGP chooses to look the other way, or even encourage it for electoral gains. Separatist movements are on full swing, violence is a daily occurrence. No one else seems to have reached out to these separatist groups, tried to begin a peace process. And integrate the North-East with the rest of the country. That is one region which shares more border with other countries than with our own. And China is encroaching on the borders, and Manmohan doesn’t seem to be having sleepless nights about that.
Freedom of worship is yet another thing. Proselytization has reached new heights, and is slated to continue. A minister of state calls our gods names and no one says a thing? And he doesn’t bother to apologize?Symbols of our faith are encroached upon, and no one seems to turn a hair. The levels of polarization society is seeing now has had no precedent.
I don’t care if the people in power are young or old. I don’t give a damn if they are rich or poor either. They can be illiterate for all I care. All I ask for is some amount of patriotism. Of what use is competence when you don’t look at the country and your countrymen with love and a feeling of belonging? I find that sorely lacking in the UPA and the Left, who put party and self interests above national interest. And who don’t seem to take pride in being Indian. They have the ‘We are a third-world country’ mentality instead of a ‘We can/need to be a first-world country’.
So for five years, I’ve been hoping for a change in governments, cringed at all the injustice meted out by the establishment, and have seen an increasing number of people turn anti-UPA. But, well, I guess my sample space was localized… as is seen in the near-sweep of BJP in Karnataka, and the whole of Bangalore Urban. I was surprised Sangliana and Jaffer Sharif got beaten. And that Ananth Kumar was trailing for quite a while.
They say it’s good the Left is out… but now there’s nothing to stop Manmohan bending backwards to US demands, and considering it’s Obama, he’s surely going to demand his protectionist pound of flesh. And have his own solutions for the Kashmir problem.
On a more positive note, now the Congress can’t hide behind the excuse of the Left preventing development from taking place. It’s also good to see a non-fractured mandate, though one hopes it isn’t Amar Singh the Congress allies with. And now that their position is secure, hope they concentrate more on development than on nurturing votebanks.
On a lighter note, searches for ra_hul_ga_n_dh_i_s_girl_fr_iend are up again. Not scheduled to go down anytime soon, I guess. Folks say they are looking for the image of the future bahu of the nation, and by extension, the future kingmaker of the nation.
And for so long, the BJP’s slogan has been “Advani For PM”. Now that they have to sit in the opposition, it’s going to be “Advani Against PM”.
PS: On a personal note, I didn’t stick around watching the counting unfold (I can’t watch India lose a cricket match, d’you think I can bear to watch it lose its pride, wealth, and everything else?) and so I actually managed to get stuff done. Not everything went my way, but my laptop mysteriously came back to life this afternoon… (it had died a week or so back) hurray!
A hard day’s night, spent in fitful slumber. The morning after, spent in some more fitful slumber. Woken up to shouts of “If you remain sleeping like this, how will you vote?”.
I seem to have come a long way from since I was a kid, when elections were a source of endless joy to kids.
My center was a bit of a distance from my house, and man! you wouldn’t know there was an election going on. No sign absolutely, except for traffic jams on the narrow approach roads to the school.
A few tables under a few trees had folks who gave you your serial number. You took that and went to the relevant voting booth. They checked your photo ID and inked your finger. You went behind a cardboard screen and pressed a button. You heard a beep. It’s all over.
Hardly any sign that an election was on, save this fat youngish man who jumped in front of you and said “Naane Krishna Byre Gowda, medam, nannige vote haaki. Candidate #2 medam”. And young men in orange shirts saying ‘Saar saar, BJP-ge vote, saar, Ananth Kumar-ge vote maadi, saar’. And one ingenious guy who’d procured a model EVM panel from somewhere with Ananth Kumar’s name marked on it and showed you which button to press.Random kids running around with Congress flags. One of the ran upto my mother and said ‘Aunty, aunty, vote for Congress, aunty’. She said they had to be studying, not doing this sort of a job. They gave back a cheesy ‘aadre ivattu school illvalla aunty?’ That was about it.
And man, how many independents! The list of candidates was crazily long. I could have taught my two-year-old neighbor names of all the fruits and flowers just by showing her the EVM panel. No one seems to have cared about most of them… and hell, I didn’t even know Vatal Nagaraj was standing for elections till then!
A long long time back, when I was not old enough to vote, I used to live rather close to Vijaya Junior College, an election center. So you’d have folks coming to your door right from 7:30 am, exhorting you to vote. Not that anyone in our street needed it; every house had atleast one politically-aware member, in most cases, a grandfather, to drag the whole family off to vote even before the booth opened.
And that was a necessity…. someone else’d vote in your name if they could.
And the crowds! People thronged the place to vote. My uncle would check out the booth numbers well in advance just so that the rest of the family wasn’t caught in confusion and crowd when they went to vote. And maybe that’s why you hear stories only of families being separated at the Kumbh Mela and not at polling centers.
The path to the election center was lined with posters and buntings and whatnot. So many party symbols, so many colours. Bright orange ones for the BJP with Lord Ram posters, green-bordered ones with a wheel for JD, and… funnily, I don’t remember anything from the Congress campaign… maybe they thought they were beyond advertising, being so famous and all. You’d have partyLeader lookalikes, huge cutouts of politicians, and people shouting out slogans on microphones. And then you reached a desk which would mostly be manned by a volunteer you happened to know, and who wouldn’t wait until you told him your name to look it up and give you your booth number. And then you stood in queue with a gazillion others. When your turn came, they’d look at your ration card copy, make a mark against your name, a mark on your finger, and give you a ballot paper and point you to behind a cardboard screen. You stamped the paper and came out.
My grandfather took me to watch the fun, and the lady with the indelible ink very kindly obliged us by inking my finger as well. And I could show off in school the next day that I had ‘voted’
Talking of which… the indelible ink back then was some variant of ballpoint ink, and stayed where it was put for a week or two. Not like the ink now, which flows all over your hand and can be erased within minutes.
And enthu levels ohmigod…. all the old-timers on the street had taken it upon themselves to keep the poll fever on. They discussed, canvassed, volunteered, watched the news… and basically set the atmosphere. Even the oldest, senilest, illest folks turned up to vote, propped up by their sons or daughters-in-law. I remember this really ancient man on our street who went about telling the whole place to vote for BJP, vote for the lotus. And then comes out of the polling booth with a grin on his face, and when someone asked him who he voted for, he said with a twinkle in his eye, ‘Naanu chakrakke haakidini ‘ (I voted for the wheel (JD)).
Now my neighbors can hardly be bothered to get off their seats and trudge all the way to a center a kilometer away. There are no enthu old-timers either, to initiate conversation and discussion.
But most of all, I miss the entire election atmosphere. Even without the exit-poll gag, or saree and TV distribution, there should have been more of an atmosphere. I feel this is important, because it makes you feel like election is some sort of a ceremony, like bursting crackers on Diwali. Not some boring ‘fundamental duty’ you need to perform and get little in return, like paying taxes.
It should feel like it’s worth going back home after going half the way to the polling booth just to get your voter ID and come back, to vote. [For once, it wasn't me who forgot an all-important document before leaving the house.... it was my mother]. It shouldn’t bite that you are but one insignificant bit of a billion, and your vote is just a .000001% (figures not accurate) of the electorate.
And for that, nothing helps better than arrangements that look elaborate, and the infectious enthusiasm pervading the atmosphere for weeks before the polling date. It makes you feel like you’re doing something that matters, not like you’re wasting precious hours of work-free existence to take part in an activity from which you don’t get anything in the short run, a thankless job.
I don’t get why there’s a ban on offering voters TV sets and sarees. Or even cash. It’s all an incentive for people to come out and vote. Anyway it’s just one vote they can cast, great if they get something for it. Secret ballot is still guaranteed in this country for those who ask for it, so it’s quite a possibility voters take the saree/TV/cash and still vote for whoever they want…. atleast that’s what the flower-lady, the fruit-lady and all those folks I know who are lucky enough to get an incentive for voting do. I hate this mai-baap attitude of the government which presumes people are dumb enough to vote for anyone who gives them a saree.
My relatives in the US were talking about how during their presidential elections they don’t have any indelible ink, or extreme security measures, or loud campaigns which disturb their sleep…. the whole election process they said was so civilized, a far cry from the chaos in their homeland. [Aside: It brings to mind an image of folks walking into an election booth Apple-1984 style chanting "Obama, Obama".] Folks, don’t worry so much, we’re moving towards there.
Now if there was one aspect in which I’d beg people to not ape the West, I’d not talk about pub culture, or broken homes, or unhealthy food, or materialism, or capitalism or whatever crap… I’d just say leave our election fever be!
Bleg: I was wondering about ways to subvert the poll process, cast ultiple votes, capture booths and things like that. What are the chinks in the system? How do you sneak in votes in a number significant enough to make a difference? How much is possible without the compliance of the folks on election duty? How many folks on election duty actually subvert the process? What are the checks for the same? Someone kindly enlighten me.
So there exists an opportunity now to make election posters into collector’s items or posters to adorn a girl’s room. One of the candidates is a single half-Italian man. With dimples, at that. And no, Dino Morea is not standing for elections. Yet. (Which is actually a relief, given his recent departure from his Musu Musu Haasi-era good looks).
The scion of the dyNasty is who I’m talking about. No, I don’t say Mr. Gandhi is goodlooking. But he has all the right qualifications. Single? Check. Italian blood? Check. Dimples? Check. Fair complexion? Check. Under forty? Check (1970-born). So when I see this torturous poster every morning and evening exhorting me to vote for this man whose face doesn’t compare with that of John Abraham and Shayan Munshi in the neighboring hoardings, I cringe at all this potential going waste.
So… well… some pointers here to the folks who make posters for the Congress:
- Who are we trying to kid? Thirty-nine isn’t Young. Atleast not for first-time female voters in the 18-25 age group. So…. attempt to cast him in the Sanjay Dutt – SRK slot, not the Hrithik slot or John Ab slot. The struggling-to-be-fit-and-succeeding one.
- In a few years, he looks like he’s going to have more chins than the Hong Kong telephone directory. Dude…. or should I call you Uncle… work out, for godsake! SRK tops you with lines like “Yeah, Rahul Gandhi is goodlooking, but I have a six-pack’. And get Outlook or The Week or ToiLeT Paper or CNN-IBN or NDTV to chronicle your morning workout. And get cracking. The media goes gaga about Modi’s (if only figurative) chhappan ki chhatti….this is your chance to score one over him by proving that he is just all talk while you have the real stuff… and by extrapolation this is true for other issues like development, as ToI will write.
- Get a better photographer. Not your current one, or these presswallahs whose cameras add ten pounds to your face. Stretch your neck a bit when they take a picture of your face. That way you avoid the extra chins being added. Maybe you can strike the thinking-man pose – looking skyward in contemplation.
- And smile. Or grin. Widely. That’s what Italian men are expected to do. You don’t have it in you to look like a sleek mafia don – you need a darker skin tone and sharper features to carry that off. So take the pretty-boy route out.
- And sign off with Hasta la Vista, baby. Yeah, it’s Spanish, but who really knows the difference between Spain and Italy? People take Romance languages rather literally.
- An accented English/Hindi is okay. For the same reason as above.
I certainly don’t want the Congress to win this election, however narrowly. My loyalties are well-displayed on the widgets on the right here. But heck, if we are having posters that are going to be plastered everywhere from Malleshwaram to Basavanagudi, from Indiranagar to Rajajinagar, we might as well have posters good enough to be called eye-candy.
And… I guess the best thing for Mr. Gandhi to do would be to adapt a line from Jhankaar Beats to be his guiding light – Jeete toh jeete, haare toh haare, har dil ko apna banaana hai. My tips might or might not help with the former, but the latter, quite surely it will.
If you landed here searching for ‘Rahul Gandhi’s Girlfriend’ or variations of the same, please pause a few moments to answer the following questions for me in the comments section below. Please. Pretty Please.
- Is this your first time searching for Rahul Gandhi’s girlfriend?
- Are you male or female?
- What motivates you to search for Rahul Gandhi’s girlfriend?
Coz over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed my blog gets a scary number of hits for ‘Rahul Gandhi Girlfriend’ and the like, and I’d like to know the method behind this madness. It’s nice that people are election-aware and all that in this election season, but why are there so many searching for Rahul Gandhi’s Girlfriend and ending up on this blog? It’s not even in the first page of results! (Of course… after this post, it will be).
And if you really want info on Rahul Gandhi’s girlfriend, it might help to check this post out.
And… I really wonder why a goodlooking guy with Italian genes and desirous dimples (just an expression… I personally think he looks like an overgrown schoolboy) is yet unmarried… something sinister, the bitchy old maid in me says.
They should have instead called for Pink Slips. Solely because there’s a pun in it. And because it’s recession time. You effectively reject the sort of behaviour your opponents show by giving them pink slips. And it’s more appropriate because it shows the role of ‘vested’ interests in this whole setup.
That said… I don’t support this petty campaign based on misinformation, apathy and herd-mentality. I don’t see the point. Plus, I don’t believe in Gandhian methods and I think Jail Bharo is an idiotic idea. As for pub bharo… I have no words.
I have a feeling this whole thing is stage-managed by the Federation of Pubs and Bars of India (or whatever umbrella association there is for pubs and bars nationwide).
Well well well…. I began four years earlier than him
So this is the link to his blog : http://blog.lkadvani.in
This move of Mr. Advani gives RSS feeds a whole new meaning
It’s really great to have a well-known mainstream politician on the blogosphere, especially since he is such a controversial personality. This way, his word gets to the audience with no vested interests mangling his words to further their own agenda.
Speaking of vested interests, not ONE mainstream newspaper or news site has chronicled this development. I’m not making this up… check it out for yourself on Google News. As of today, only Livemint and Calcutta Telegraph have carried an article on this.
Oh, and you need to login to be able to comment. Last I checked, comments were moderated. And there seems to be a bunch of folks dedicated solely to this task of filtering out comments. When I read the first post, I noticed there were no permalinks for the posts. I pointed this out and said that it would help search engines to index the posts. Within ten minutes, I received a mail from someone with an ID with the bjp.org domain, saying they’ll look into my suggestion, thanks a ton. And man, they DID!! After four-five hours, the blog did have permalinks for the posts!!
I first thought it was an automated message that’s sent out to all commenters. So I tested this out with an arbit comment, and that one was published, and I did not receive any mail. Good to see blogging being taken this seriously!
Oh, and he uses wordpress
I won’t be very surprised if I find this on a Tshirt soon.
The attitude of the media and the people they interview these days is, to say the least, despicable. Yeah, fine, a lot of things went wrong due to which the tragedy at Mumbai occurred. But is it right to go for every politician’s jugular now?
For starters, who votes these guys in, or does not vote against these guys? The only solution these upper middle class folks can think of is to not vote. Is it that they don’t realize that it doesn’t make too much of a difference if they don’t vote, or are they just too lazy to vote?
Politicians have realized there’s no point of trying to woo this part of the electorate. No matter what a politician does, he always has a ‘hidden agenda’. A politician can never be right. These are people who don’t even read political news; how are they going to know who to vote for? Oh, and they are the last people who’ll think of attending election rallies. “Because it’s all lies and tripe anyway”.
Snobbery, fine. Everyone shows some – folks who think Bollywood music is infra-dig, or those who don’t watch hockey coz it’s not cool enough. But taking it to such extremes is like refusing to get out of your stilettos even when the arch of your foot is broken.
“Voting is like choosing the lesser of two evils”. Well, yes. But you do need to exercise your choice if you want to make a difference. Yes, some politicians are criminals, but you need to factor that in while making a choice. And no, education, doesn’t do away with corruption, ask anyone who’s worked on Incineer. All education does is help YOU make the better choice – seeing through the lies, the corrupt schemes, and informing you on what to do in case you come across inconsistencies and corruption.
Another thing that constantly comes to mind is that a corrupt official is not necessarily an inefficient official. Honesty and efficiency are two independent variables as far as an individual is concerned. But when you take it over a larger whole, it is better for the officials to be honest, as it enforces predictability and faith in the system.
“Politicians, get out of my city. I don’t need you to make things worse for us here”. Oh, and who is going to manage things for you, lady? Who will you blame the next time things go wrong as they surely will?
Why don’t people understand we need politicians? And frankly, you need to a ruthless, thick-skinned person to be in the profession. You need to play ‘politics’. Sure, it might be unpalatable for some, but it’s inevitable when so many compete for so few.
“Make it a meritocracy”…. well, you can. You are the ones who judge who would do a better job. So choose the right person. Don’t attempt to outsource it to some other agency by asking for restrictions on this and that. It’s hard on you, but that’s the price you pay for being able to choose. An honest matric-pass or a dishonest PhD. An inefficient honest man, or a get-things-done guy who occasionally asks for favours.
People go on the extremes – only old fuddy-duddies who are so out of touch with the pulse of the youth form the government. Can’t help it, can we, if you have to work your way up the ladder? And a young man or woman doesn’t have the requisite experience in public life to know about consequences of actions that impact an entire country. More so if they are urbane elite who haven’t worked at the grassroots level, be it in a rural area or an urban area.
“How come Raj Thackeray didn’t throw the non-Marathi NSG commandos out at the airport itself?”. Now you can say that arbitly, randomly, but on a news channel?! When you are supposed to be a top reporter? He has a weird way of expressing it, but his point is that outsiders do not learn the local language when they make Mumbai their home. Keyword ‘home’. Valid point in itself, though it needn’t have escalated to the heights it has. Why drag him into this? He doesn’t have any power over the security apparatus of Mumbai, does he? And if the commandos decided to live in Mumbai, maybe he’d've raised an issue, but they didn’t, so what are you talking about?
Having said that, I’ll add that he could have helped, by atleast providing chai-pani to the crowds outside, or taken care of crowd security…. or found some way to make himself useful. And relevant.
Then there are those who want war with Pakistan. Understandable anger, but we need to take a cold decision on that. Then there are those who don’t. Because they say they don’t want innocent people to suffer due to the war. Er… how about the innocent lives lost in these attacks? And there are some who say “Why can’t the governments of India and Pakistan arrive at a solution together?”. Because one of us is the problem?
Oh, and the “Do not Politicize *”. How can you not politicize a misdeed of the government? That’s just a convenient escapist statement. Here is a list of all the Do Not Politicize statements put forth by the government.
And “Terror has no religion” and “Do not communalize this issue”. If terror really has no religion, why do terrorist emails routinely cite religion as their inspiration? And the media that so easily came up with “Hindu Terror” even though there was no inspiration claimed from the Gita or the Rig Veda or any Upanishad, why can’t it for once say “Islamic Terror”? Isn’t this double standards?
American papers carrying columns by Indians about how dangerous Hindu fascism is to the rest of the world. First it was just a couple, but now it’s a whole torrent. I’m getting sick of even dismissing these as tripe; I’m that irritated.
I’m sick-to-dying of hearing all these cliches every time I tune into any sort of media – be it the feeds I read, or the newspapers or the television. I have moved beyond these hackneyed, ill-informed arguments which are fine, rather cute even, to spout in school-level debates but not elsewhere. I’m sick of having to correct people each time they open their mouths on current affairs. I’m sick of ill-informed people who consider it their prerogative to talk about current affairs without the slightest idea of what is going on.
Rest of the world, kindly give me a break.
So Obama’s Presidential Transition Team has an Indian woman now. Sonal Shah. Her appointment has sparked off a controversy. Not coz she’s Indian or anything, but because her father was closely associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
Some groups called ‘Coalition Against Genocide’ (who count amongst their achievements getting the US to deny a visa to Modi) have kicked up a controversy about this. And predictably, the lady has denied any links with VHP and RSS and says she is against divisive politics.
I’m sick of the whole ‘Right is wrong’ approach that has been drummed into our heads. In any other country, the VHP would be just another religious group, the RSS one of the foremost volunteer organizations, and folks supporting these groups would just be nationalists… but in ours, we are fascists, neo-Nazis, Hindu versions of Zionists, terrorists, mischief-mongers, communalists, you name it.
The VHP has never outright supported any sort of violence, and never has the RSS hand in communalism, if ever it had one, been proved. Godse assassinated Gandhi of his own volition, and the RSS had nothing to do with it, for all you folks who suggest that line of thought. In fact, that was a mere excuse for Nehru to ban an organization which was against his policies… that man couldn’t stand any differences in opinion now, could he? He blacked out Godse’s defense of himself in court… read it here, and you’ll understand why it was blacked out.
I’m sick of watching people apologize for the religion they follow, even though it’s the one which has shown maximum resilience, maximum tolerance, maximum flexibility to its followers, maximum objectivity and maximum ability to change and adapt as the situation demands, and almost never seem like an anachronism.
It doesn’t do to be in denial anymore about our past and heritage, or to continue to believe myths that make us feel ashamed of our rich history and traditions. It only serves to deplete us, bring down our self-esteem and self-confidence, turn cynical, not have faith in ourselves and our abilities. Lesser cultures have sped ahead of us merely by virtue of their self-confidence.
The past might just be the past, dead and gone, and never to return. But it surely would serve to inspire us, to give us the energy to go on with our duties even when we feel we’ve hit a brick wall.
Like, Koreans work fifteen hours a day, take very short breaks, and in general do things which we folks would consider symptoms of OCD… but they work at whatever they are doing with the feeling that every drop of sweat they shed is helping build their economy, which was shattered by the wars and invasions. And apart from boosting deo sales, it makes their country a rich, prosperous one. I don’t mean to say that’s the path to salvation, but this is just to illustrate what a bit of patriotism and self-confidence can do.
Separation of religion and state is ideal for oppressive, hierarchical religions, but not for pagan heathens for whom religion is a way of life. We worship rain, money, food, tools, animals, you name it. Religion is so ingrained into our lives that to shift-delete it from our lives would be to obliterate our identities and all that we stand for.
Being ‘conservative’ means to ‘conserve’ the ideals our forefathers have left us. For other countries which were left legacies that aren’t organic, and are not sustainable, it might be ideal to have revolution as the midwife of history, but when we already have a nicely-working legacy system, it doesn’t make sense to break it all down just because it’s old, though it might be more robust than any new system you might bring in. Ancient does not necessarily mean outdated.
In the Indian context, it makes more sense to preserve than to destroy what we have.
A Muslim country like Indonesia considers the Ramayana as an integral part of its culture, so much that it finds representation in currency notes, and we question and deny the same thing, which is more a matter of faith than logic. And choose to emboss our currency notes with another sacred cow.
I see no anachronism in chanting the Gayatri Mantra, wearing a sacred thread, going on a pilgrimage to Rameshwaram, believing Setu existed, celebrating a thousand-odd festivals, worshipping thirty-three crore Gods and Goddesses, doing the Surya Namaskar, rendering the Omkara, playing religious music on All India Radio, speaking Sanskritized Hindi, Tamil or whatever Indian language, being vegetarian, being allowed to joke about my religion, being allowed to believe, or not, having enough authority to bring in reform as and when I choose to to my religion.
I see no point in espousing atheism and denigrating Gods and idol worship if the alternative is you are supposed to revere sacred cows like this one and this one and against who it is illegal to commit any blasphemy.
Hare Krishna and Vande Mataram.
So every Vamsi Krishna, Nijalingappa, Unnithan and Murugan I know is gunning for Obama. I think I know why.
For starters, the general view is that Southies have more melanin than the others, never mind the Kodavas (who are all Greek to us anyway) and Saurashtris. And that is ascribed to our constant exposure to Sun TV, Udaya TV, Surya TV, Teja TV, Suryan FM, S FM… And so it’s easy to suppose anyone of Obama’s complexion is one of our own.
I guess Mallu names – Achama, etc, Gult names – Chinnamma, Chilakamma, Seethamma, Kodava names – Chondamma, Poovamma, Nanjamma, all sound so much like Obama… and the Kodavas, martial race that they are, (they are one of the very few people in India allowed to keep arms without a license) I guess are enamoured by the ‘Barack’ in the name.
And the Kannadigas now… we all feel proud of being the home state of one of the very first woman freedom fighters in India – Onake Obamma. And we quite easily assume that this dark man is quite possibly a descendant, or a worshipper that he sports her name as part of his. Maybe the ‘Barack’ is to signify the armed resistance connotation.
Tams.. especially Tam-Brahms strongly support Obama like he were a family member or something (no, I’m not referring to Dayanidhi Maran-Karunanidhi here.. they are exceptions), because among the gallery of Ambi Mama, Mani Mama, Cheenu Mama, Badri Mama, Raghava Mama, Kittu Mama… Obamama doesn’t seem so new.
I find there’s an ethnic group in various districts of Karnataka called the Siddis who are of African origin. They only look African, but are in all other aspects, completely integrated into Karnataka… they have been here for five hundred years, apparently. So I guess these guys hail Obama as one of their own race…. oh, man, first the Kodavas, then the rest of Karnataka, and now these folks… why is Obama so allergic to Bangaloring, again?
Well, well, well… the Gandhis are not the only ones whose name rings a (Pavlovian) bell.
…. is what Mr. Shivraj Patil had to say about the Delhi Blasts.
And he also appealed for calm. And praised the resilience of people of the country.
I agree, losing your head in such a situation is not the best thing to do. But how long should it be business as usual for the average Indian? Should he keep going about his work in spite of all the people he knows suddenly turning into ex-people? What is being done to check this situation where all of us have to live in fear?
Millions die of hunger and disease… why am I bothering about these twenty people dying? It’s because they die not because they are denied facilities or jobs, but very very very basic security. Preventable deaths.
We’ll send out mails saying we are resilient… they’ll continue blasting us into pieces. Reminds me of that knight in Monty Python And The Holy Grail who keeps yelling out challenges even though his limbs are hacked apart and his head severed.
And why am I blaming the government now? It’s because terrorists attack us because they can. C’mon… You cheat me once, shame on you. You cheat me twice, shame on me…. just how many countries have witnessed encores upon encores of terrorist acts?
One thing I’ve noticed over a couple of years is that Arts grads are more likely to support the idea of India as a “developing” country, and are less appreciative of Indian culture, and are more likely to be apologetic about their heritage.
Actually, I should rephrase that… Engineering grads are more likely to think of India as a country with a lot of potential, and are more back-to-the-roots, and proud of being Indian.
I don’t know too many non-engineers who are not Arts grads, hence the first statement. Sorry if that sounded too prejudiced… it’s empirical evidence. Plus, I’m too zonked at the moment to hit backspace.
I don’t think anyone really thought Bangalore will be the target of serial blasts. Especially of serial blasts that look like they weren’t meant to take many lives.
Who roams around the city at 1:30 PM? The “crowded junctions” are least crowded then. And I won’t elucidate more on the mistakes the “terrorists” or the “mischief mongers” made yesterday, lest they be reading this and take some tips.
Anyway, I feel people just wanted to have some respite from the continuous powercuts Bangalore has to face, and so decided on such an “attack” after seeing that Bescom doesn’t shut off power when events of national interest are happening – the Trust Vote was the first time in many days we didn’t have a power cut in the evening. And sure enough, we didn’t have load shedding yesterday.
PS: Before you ask “how can you take this so lightly!”, or marvel at the spirit of my resilience, let me say the TV channels are reading too much. Times NOW was saying even after such widespread panic was seen in the city, the authorities are reluctant to call this a terrorist attack. Before you too go on an authorities-bashing spree, I’m having you know they know much more than they are letting on. Much more than the media, anyway. For instance, do any of you recollect watching an event unfolding in a pile of garbage near a school? No? Well, it did happen, and there were Kannada television reporters there. But it’s not on any English/Hindi news channel…. I really wonder why. And it’s better to go along with the authorities here… they really do seem to know what they are doing, and the best we can do is take it lightly. I know I had earlier blogged saying “Balls to taking it lightly!”, but now when we know the Government and the Police are really with us, we needn’t worry about meeting our maker before our time, and get on with life as usual, only, be more alert and show more presence of mind. Like someone’s status message goes – “(Gelatine) sticks and stones won’t break my bones….”.
PPS: I thought I’d published this earlier in the day, but as it happened, the power cut just as I hit “Publish”. It came back just in time for me to watch the defusing of a bomb outside The Forum mall on TV9. I don’t know what to feel, considering I had originally planned on catching a movie there, but plans had got shelved. And now Ahmedabad… guess power is not the reason then, coz I’ve heard there are hardly if any power cuts in Ahmedabad. Any alternative conspiracy theories, anyone?
PPPS: I agree this is a terrorist attack now that the Indian Mujahideen has accepted responsiblity for this heinous act… but you can’t blame the authorities for not calling it a terrorist (in the Al Qaeda sense of the word) attack before… there are simply too many disgruntled groups in India who are willing to take up arms for their “cause”, take these urbane naxalites for example.
I don’t know if I read too much between the lines or what… I felt the beer scene in Rang De Basanti was from Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I also felt Jab We Met was an adaptation of Wodehouse’s Damsel in Distress. Like I’ve said before, I thought Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na was a remake of Niram. Maybe it’s just human nature to understand new things in terms of the old, or maybe I’m like Miss Marple who has a St. Mary’s Mead analogy for every incident and character.
So when I was watching 24X7 last night, the Lok Sabha proceedings seemed hilarious – the Speaker was more like a class monitor, and the noisy MPs reminded me of my classmates at school (we were the most notorious bunch). The Speaker yelling for silence was simply too much to take, and when he said “If you keep talking, I’ll understand you don’t want the Trust Vote… do you want the Trust Vote or not?”, I was reminded of Varalakshmi Miss saying “Chil-raaan, if you make noise, I won’t take you to the AV Room for the movie”. All that was missing was writing bad names on the board.
Oh, and did anyone notice the esteemed Speaker pick his nose on (inter)national television?
And after the results of the Vote were declared, the Speaker hurriedly played Vande Mataram, as if to enforce silence and order in the house, and prevent pandemonium from breaking out immediately.
Anyway, all this behaviour seemed darkly funny, comical even… now that rang a bell… the whole cash-for-votes thing reminded me of an Asterix comic – Asterix At The Olympic Games. As for details:
…the Gauls decide to participate in the Games as well, under the view that – as part of the Roman world – they are legally Romans (only free-born Greek citizens were allowed to compete in the ancient Olympics, but under pressure an exception was made for their Roman occupiers). They later arrive in Greece for the games, and are entered in the list of participants, much to the surprise of the Greeks and the consternation of the Romans.
Eventually the Romans file a protest about the magic potion, which is banned by the Olympic officials; this decision would seem to put an end to the Gauls’ attempts to win a golden palm (the Romans being much fitter and better trained). However, in an ingenious twist, Asterix and the druid Getafix leak the location of the potion to the Romans, who, in their desire to win, all take the banned substance – which is laced with a dye which turns their tongues blue – and are disqualified, leaving Asterix as the winner by default (though the villagers act as if he won by his own efforts). …
Hmm… maybe as Mahesh Bhatt says, there are only seven stories in the world, and so such analogies are the norm rather than the exception.
PS: A year ago, at Landmark, I found a handsomely-bound (in jute), handsomely priced, well-illustrated book (translated to English from the original French) called Nicholas, by René Goscinny, one of the two creators of Asterix. Sadly I already had an armful of books, and thought I’d come back for it. I remembered the book only a couple of months back, and have tried a hazaar bookstores, but no one seems to have it. Anyone come across a copy anywhere? Anyone possess a copy and willing to lend?