Friday, October 31, 2008

Being an Indian

I have been ranting and raving about the pros and cons (mostly, sadly) of being a Bihari. And it struck me how hard; or rather intricate is the state of being an Indian. Suddenly, Jinnah’s two nation theory seems like the babble of a deaf-mute 5 year old. India is a thousand nations. And maybe it will be divided on those grounds someday. That is definitely not I want. But who knows what happens next.

People fight. That is an indelible trait embedded in our genes, I guess. Allow me to digress. I am a not-so-regular viewer of an incredibly sarcastic TV show with elements of dark and sometimes twisted and sick humour in it, called SouthPark. In this show, a couple of episodes titled Go God Go I and II were aired some time back. It started with Richard Dawkins and atheism. And after much hullaballoo over Darwinism and Intelligent Design, one of the characters gets to the Future, centuries from now, as a result of a freak accident. And guess what was going on in the future? People stopped believing in God or religion, they said Oh My Science instead of Oh My God, BUT, they were still fighting. They were fighting over something called the Ultimate Question, and whose answer was the right one. The bottom-line is obvious. Coming back to the big bad world, while people all fight over different issues, one issue per region, in India, we seem to have the complete range. We have religion, obviously, the numero uno. Followed by caste, which has many sub divisions. Language is a one; the Aryan-Dravidian nonsense is another. I firmly believe that even this Aryan invasion theory was a diabolical fabrication by the Brits to further ease their job in India. And how can I forget women. Men and women in India have been fighting a silent war, and one look at the sex-ratio would tell you what the casualty count is. Around 35 million females. Damn all the men who consider women as second-rate citizens. A woman is a mother. Period. And nothing else can surpass that. (Feminists, please don’t jump at my throat if you think I was implying that a women is only good enough to bear and rear children)

Hindu Jaagaran Morcha. An outfit to avenge the deaths of Hindus by IM/SIMI. I felt weird, sick and confused, all at the same time, when I heard of their doings. So that is how a decent, law-abiding, patriotic Muslim feels when some jackass who claims to be a believer in God and a follower of Islam blows up something. I am aghast and ashamed. And thank the Almighty that this was not swept under the rugs. Speaking of terror and terrorists, we seem to have almost all kinds of them.

1. Good old Islamic terrorist
2. The greenhorn Hindu “jihadi”
3. The Naxalites , MCC, CPI-ML , PWG and so on
4. The Upper-caste army of Landlords who came into existence to counter no.3
5. The Khalistani militants, which I guess are not as dormant as commonly perceived
6. Naga Terrorists (Aren’t they Christians?)
8. BD - If you rape a nun in the name of God, you are a terrorist for me.
9. Every bloody rioter

My apologies if I forgot to mention anyone.

That’s terrorism in diversity for you people. Be Proud. You could only have that in a country like India. “It happens only in India”! And we only need Buddhist, Jain and Parsee terrorists to complete the beautiful picture. No offence intended!

Whenever somebody blows up or kills someone in the name of something or the other, I am reminded of a dialogue from the movie Sarfarosh, where the character called Inspector Saleem says so”Apne desh ke dushman bohot kismet waale hain, unhe bas hathiyar bhejne ki zaroorat hai, ladne waale bohot mil jayenge” (The enemies of India are really lucky, as they have to furnish the guns and the bombs only, the soldiers to fight their wars are in plenty). Very true.

A thousand curses and eternal damnation to the media. They are the worst amongst the worst. Show me the whole picture, I’ll choose the part which seems right to me. I would like to know whether the ad for the grade IV examination conducted by the railways was really brought out only in the Hindi newspapers or not. But I don’t think I am ever going to discover that through the media. Is investigative journalism dead, or in a coma? All the media seems to show is what depresses, demoralize and disgusts, sometimes all at the same time. Is it that hard to look for stories that are good for the Indian spirit?

Ever heard of the word “illad”? Not Homer’s Iliad. I-L-L-A-D. This is the one word that I absolutely hate with every fiber of my body. This word stands for one of the major flaws with the mindset of the Indians (hailing from the states other than Karnataka, Kerala, TN and AP). This is like blasphemy for me. For those of you, who have not heard of it, an “illad” is the more affectionate term used to address (indirectly) the people of the Southern states, or “South-India”. It was quite a commonly used part of the vocabulary of the average Manipal-ite. Every time I hear it, I feel as if somebody used the invective of the mother-sister type for me. Even though I hail from a state up north, it stings. And the morons who drop it at the drop of hat from their mouths evidently do not realize how wrong and criminally insensitive they are. A few months ago, while dining in a restaurant, I overheard a girl saying” Delhi ke neeche sab south hai.” (Everything below Delhi is South for me). Sure you do bitch. Who the hell taught you geography, and history for that matter? I would go wild with ecstasy if the words “North-Indian” and “South-Indian” were officially banned.And while I am on the subject of name calling, I equally loathe and detest how Indians from the North-East get labeled as "Chinkies" . That is again , seriously fucked up . They are treated as if they are foreigners , no wonder some of them do want to secede from India .When will we stop seeing each other as illad's, chinkie's,bhaiyya's,ghati's and whatever-other-stupid-names-we-have ?

Amidst all the anti-Bihari vibe tingling the nation’s spine, sometimes I feel like a Jew. I guess the displaced Kashmiri Pandits feel the same, refuges in their own home. The Sikhs during ‘84 riots must have felt the same. Also the Muslims in ‘93 and ‘02. And the Christians in Orissa and in Karnataka. I bet the busload of elderly Marathi women and men touring Bihar, who were caught in the middle of the ruckus, felt something close. At least they escaped unscathed, thanks to the local MP and the Police. And I am alive, amen to that. Which brings this thought to my disturbed mind, who’s going to be the next “Jew” of India?

Amidst the chaos and the cacophony, I often wonder, when, or rather how would it end? Would it ever end? Or Is this the beginning of the End? For a guy like me, who thinks a lot about these things (contemplation, retrospection and introspection being one of my preferred activities to engage at leisure), for whom these things matter, it is extremely disturbing. I am often lost; thinking about how things could have been or rather should have been. While people often think about Superheroes and fantasize about being one (including yours truly), I, more often than not, end up conjuring up a fantasy of a Super India. An India that was economically stronger, with a uniform distribution of wealth. An India that beat the living daylights out of China and was significantly more powerful (In my fantasies we annihilated China in 1962 and asked Tibet to join the Indian Union, and they gleefully did., ditto in the Bangladesh war, and we also did not lose the piece of land now known as Pok). An India which files thousands of patents a year. An India which spear heads the development of green technology. An India which sends a manned mission to Mars before others do. As secular and democratic as no nation has ever been. And so on, and so forth. What an incorrigible day-dreamer am I! Which is why when jolted back to the real India, I actually feel physical pain. I feel a throbbing in my head and a searing pain in my heart.

The reason why I don’t watch a lot of football or have a favourite team – Does my country play this game? Does any club from my country play this game, on an international level? Then who do I root for? Why should I scream the blood out of my lungs? No Tricolor, No testosterone-driven-adrenaline-powered-crazy-cheers. As a result I am an unbiased and a neutral spectator of Football. This is a testament to how insanely tricolored-track my mind is. And I am proud of it. I also wonder whether not being such a die-hard, somewhat jingoistic patriot would have actually been good for my mental health.

When I am so bogged down by the bloody mess that we live in, I often think of the easiest way out. Quite obviously, things wouldn’t get fixed over the period of a 3 hour sorry ass Indian movie, with people from all over India singing “Saare jahan se accha” or the national anthem, arms linked together and all. I am not suicidal or even close to suicidal but there are times when I wish I would get knocked down by a speeding bus. Or get blown to bits in the next bomb blast, assuming another one takes place. At times, it is all I think, how wonderful it will be to disappear from the face of this earth and never ever come back (temporarily though, because I am a believer of the Hindu theory of the cycle of birth and death). Am I unhinged to think like this? I guess a short trip to the loony bin wouldn’t hurt that much.:) At least, I would be in the company of certified lunatics, who have the failed, the “test-of-sanity” of this whacky world.

I heard about some book or the other through a pal in which the author anatomizes the concept of India, and concludes that it exists in theory alone. I tried to Google more about this, but couldn’t find anything concrete. But it does make me think a lot these days. My increasingly depressing thoughts aside, this is a serious question indeed. Is the concept of India as a secular, democratic, multi-cultural and multi-lingual nation too utopian to be true? Or is this just a phase which will pass over, and we will get back to our old “chalta-hai” attitude. Is it just plain old crazy me who is having doubts? My belief system has taken such a severe hit that the words India and Indian bring a sardonic smile to my lips these days .

Being Indian is no joke.

Time to curl back in my cocoon and let my imagination run wild. “What ho, Jeeves! Bring me a stiff w & s. Pip pip Cruel World. “

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Tribute to Greatness

It was through chance that I stumbled upon this blog, and eventually came across a blog dedicated to Dr. Chandrakant Patil, a resident doctor from King Edward Memorial Hospital, Mumbai. Dr. Patil, who was born and brought up in Maharashtra, volunteered to go to Bihar to help the flood victims. He was present at one the worst affected areas, where he tragically died due to electrocution from a lightning strike in a freak storm, on September 24th, 2008. He was a part of a team of 45 student doctors from Mumbai who traveled all the way to Bihar to help out their fellow Indians. In times like these, when relations between Marathis and Biharis is at an ebb, this was like a breath of fresh air. His sacrifice is a resounding slap on the face of all the regionalists and is a reminder that we are Indians, first and foremost. This great man undid in a flash what the “son-of-soil” leader of all Manoos’s did to me over a few months. I am heart-broken at the loss of this true son-of-the-soil and a genuine patriot. I am happy because he restored my faith in my fellow Indians from Maharashtra. I am incensed because I did not get to hear about him through the media. He was only 24 years of age.

I noticed a very disturbing change in me, over the past few months. The mere mention of Maharashtra or Marathi made me uncomfortable. While buying a product, I have a habit of checking the expiry date, and in doing so often, one comes across the place where the product was manufactured. For instance, I bought a pack of Lays, saw that it was made in Gurgaon, shrugged nonchalantly and went ahead with whatever I was doing. Of lately, whenever that place was in Maharashtra, that nonchalance disappeared. It made me think twice. And though it did not deter me and never will from buying such a product, but the very fact that I was deliberate was bad enough. A few days ago, my friends and I ordered a bucketful of chicken from KFC. When the delivery boy came, one of my friends started chatting with him. I was all smiles, a silent observer of the innocuous banter, but it vanished as soon as I learned that he was from Kolhapur. It was an awkward moment for me. But all that angst is going away, and the credit goes to Dr. Patil. The healing process is initiated, and all I have to do is think about him, if I start losing it again.

This country does not need leaders who unveil statues of themselves at the state’s expense, but we do need a memorial for heroes like him. Amidst all the chaos of divisiveness contributed by regionalism, religion and caste, this man’s sacrifice is the proverbial silver lining. The media should splash his face all over, let the 1.12 billion people know, that there was a Giant like him amongst all the pygmies that we usually catch on TV. But, I guess it’s overly optimistic of me to expect something like the aforementioned in a nation whose rulers could not spare time to pay homage to a legend like Field Marshall Sam Maneckshaw. When Dr. Patil’s image could have been used as to tool for national integration, I almost missed out on hearing about him. Thank you One Bihar. And Long Live Dr. Chandrakant Patil.

For those who would like to help out his family, here’s the link to do so.

Edited to add : Another ray of Hope , Dr Manasee Palshikar . May her tribe increase .

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Obessions, Addictions and Quirks !

I have been tagged, by dear IHM, to reveal my obsessions, addictions and quirks. So here it goes.

1. Numb3rs: Not the TV show, numbers in general. I like them. I like playing with my calculator. I love Pi. I am going to get a T-shirt with the value Pi up to a few thousand decimal places printed on it. I love Prime numbers. I like even numbers better than odd ones, and I don’t know why. This can be a quirk.

2. Adolf Hitler/World War II/The Holocaust: I want to know every damn thing that can be possibly known about the aforementioned three. I do not think that I am a neo-Nazi or can be one, but I do harbor a sentiment bordering likeness for Hitler(for his leadership qualities and oratorical skills). I often wonder how or why a human being can be so cruel. I would like to go back in time to hear him speak. And while I am there, I would also like experience the madness of WWII and the Holocaust through my own eyes. And I am often on the lookout for new movies, books and documentaries about them, the last one being Conspiracy. Definitely an obsession.

3. Bhagat Singh: Mahapurush Bhagat Singh. Son of the nation. My Hero. He would be an obsession.

4. Language: I loathe, detest, abhor and execrate SMS lingo. It hurts my eyes when I come across phrases like,”gr8 newz” or “omigosh”. It makes me cringe. And I don’t use it myself. And I always use uppercase letters to start my sentences while chatting. Here’s a sample :

Buddy_Boy: hi..any news?
4:25 PM Me: Nope . Not a clue . This implies that the doj cannot be before Dec or Jan
4:26 PM Buddy_Boy: ha ha..i knw..theyve gone to did u get thru any other company?
4:28 PM Me: Yeah , I joined a startup
4:29 PM Buddy_Boy: which firm?
Me: It’s called ******
Buddy_Boy: ok u gt thru tht e ltimus test?
4:30 PM Me: It’s not like that . E litmus gives you a score
4:31 PM On the basis of that score you apply to different companies. Then if you get called for an interview , you have to clear that for the job.
4:32 PM Buddy_Boy: ya thts wht..i Meant thru tht test score
4:37 PM Me: That helped. But I had to clear a written, coding and interview round.

An idiosyncrasy ?

5. Order and method: Aligning objects to my desk till I am satisfied. Re-arranging things at home. I like things arranged in a certain way, and I am at unease till they are in order. Quirk for sure.

6. My name: I keep writing it, on the last page of the note-book, here, there and everywhere. Somebody told me that it was because I am very ambitious. I doubt it. Big time quirk.

7. Books and Book-stores: I love reading, I love buying books, and ergo I love book-stores. When I enter one, I feel what a child must feel when it enters a toy-store. It’s like Disney land for me , and the more books it has, the happier I am. It is a happy-place for me.

8. Spicy food ,syrupy sweets, chocolates and ice-cream : I shall not let go of them till I am forced to do so, either by life or my doctor.

9. Trees: I judge the beauty of a place by the number of trees it has. The colour green never looked more beautiful and soothing when coming off a tree.

10. Hindu Philosophy: I believe that all the answers I am looking for are there. I just have to explore it. And someday I will.

11. Soda: Coke, Mountain Dew, Limca, Sprite and so on. If I have one serious addiction, it is my love for carbonated beverages. Not addicted to smoking or drinking, but to them. Quirky addiction,eh ?

12. Computers and Internet: Life would be worse than hell if I did not have access to a decent computer and a broadband net connection. A related addiction being the compulsion to Google. I have to Google, something or the other, at least once every day. I love Googling. I think about what to Google when I am not googling. I LOVE GOOGLE, and Wikipedia . King of Quirks !

Time to pass the baton, I tag Krishna Aradhi, Pranoy, Danny Buoy, Venkatesh, and 1conoclast .

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Kidnap-ped !

Without getting into the details of how and why did I, a relatively sane and a fastidious movie buff, became a part of the initiative taken by my friends to watch one the latest run-of-the-mill flicks in a theatre considerably far from my place, I would like to pen down the heart wrenching agony I experienced, courtesy, Sanjay Gadhvi’s (of the Dhoom and Dhoom II fame) Kidnap. Life has a habit of kicking you once every now and then, just to teach you a lesson. I could have watched a movie like Mumbai Meri Jaan or Welcome to Sajjanpur, but fate had other plans for me. The lesson learnt here that I shouldn’t make fun of those people who flock to the multiplexes/theatres to watch crap like Kidnap. Earlier, on being asked whether I had seen the latest-shitty-movie or not, I used to snort snobbishly, and reply in the negative, ending with the note that I did not associate myself with the foolish multitude that spends their time and energy on such tripe. Now, my reputation is ruined, my spotless track record stained.

Coming back to the movie, the first thing that struck me was the amount of cleavage that one was exposed to. I am a male, a red-blooded and a heterosexual one, but I did not go to there to ogle at the bosom of the female characters. More importantly, it was not a prerequisite for the realization of the plot. The movie starts with the “18 year old” character played by Minisha Lamba, dancing to the tune of an insanely stupid song, in various outfits, the central theme being the accentuation of her bosom. Then you get to meet her “mother”, and even in the moment of great distress, with her daughter being “kidnapped”, her visible cleavage never disappears. There is also an item number in the movie. Need I say more?

This movie will put many real-life kidnappers to shame. I say this because an actual kidnapper would take a much more professional approach, when quite obviously, he is committing such a serious offence. Imran Khan, the reel-life kidnapper takes a much more casual approach. His acting was positively atrocious; he tries to play the part with a psychotic touch, but couldn’t really pull it off. His character let the kidnapee roam around freely; he took her to the beach when she beseeched him for a bath. There are a couple of stupid songs embedded in as well. The whole thing gave the impression that they were a couple living together whose relationship was going sour. Every now and then, the kidnapee is seen prancing around the kidnapper’s lair in some brand new hot outfit. And how tech savvy the kidnapper was! He steals $20 million from the kidnapee’s insanely rich father, as easily as one could download an mp3. He knew how long it takes to trace a call, and used that to his advantage. What the makers of this great movie forgot to take into consideration was that to pin-point the location of the caller may take some 3 minutes, but anything less than that does get a rough estimate of the where the call is coming from. Of course, they don’t expect the junta to question these things. So, every time the super-smart-tech savvy-pseudo psycho kidnapper ended the call just before 3 minutes, the corporate super sleuth was left completely clueless. There is also a parkour action sequence, which is so poorly done that it looks like a slow-motion and downgraded version of the actual sport. And the dialogues are so corny; they made me wince more often than not. Even as I am writing this to unwind, certain scenes from the movie flash back and I shudder, such a traumatic experience it was.

I have a lot more to say, but I can’t go on. Re-visualizing the movie is excruciating, and without much more ado I would just like to say that it was one of the worst cinematic experiences of my life. I would like to meet the person from ToI, who very generously awarded 3 stars to the movie. I would like to know why an established actor like Sanjay Dutt would care to be a part of such an atrocity. I am positive, that I would have died of shame if I had been even remotely associated with this silver screen scourge. But then, that is the power of money. I hope time, the great healer works its magic, but there will be scars!