21 December 2006

Sorry, trade secrets!

The Marxist government, which always boasts of being the “most democratic and transparent one”, actually behaves in a different way when “unpalatable” questions are put before them.
The matter came to a head when the general secretary of the State Government Employees’ Federation, Mr Partha Chatterjee, sought some information regarding the terms and conditions of the deal between the government and Tata Motors for the latter’s proposed small car factory at Singur from the commerce and industry department under the Right to Information Act, 2004.
Mr Panchanan Banerjee, public information officer of the commerce and industry department, in his reply said there were certain information which could not be passed on to Mr Chatterjee.
He said information regarding stamp duty exemption given by the state government to the Tatas could not be divulged. Also, nothing could be mentioned on the exemption of water tax, vat and other duties imposed on the Tatas.
No information was provided on the MoU signed between the state government and the Tatas. Also, the state government declined to say anything on the steps it is going to take against the Tatas if the proposed project gets delayed.
Mr Banerjee stated that the government was unable to say the exact amount of money which the Tatas had paid to the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) for the land at Singur.
However, the total amount of money the state government was paying to farmers for acquiring the land at Singur was readily made available to Mr Chatterjee.

20 December 2006

Defy the weak

That was a screaming 72-point headline.

If they ever have the balls to say that on the eve of a CITU bandh, their office next day will come close to looking like the Hampi ruins, in terms of diaster level, not magnificence, that is.

On most Trinamul Bandhs, people are not scared to go out. People who want to work are not stopped. This is taken to be a sign of the Trinamul's ineffectiveness or lack of popularity(!).

A couple of days ago, the body of a young girl of 18, Tapasi Malik, was found in a ditch in the fenced-off area for the car factory. When Medha Patkar finally reached the village yesterday, she found none of the fiery angst amongst the villagers. They were now clearly scared.

Just five minutes ago, my colleagues were busy deriding Mamata and her fast. In fact, they have done so for quite some days now. What surprises and shocks me is that they didnt have a word to say about what is happening to the farmers in Singur or about Tapasi's murder.

Forget what Mamata says, or any other politician says. Cant they see for themselves on TV? When I went home on Nov 28 and watched the 40-minute footage on Tara Bangla or ETV Bangla (cant remember which one), I felt so terribly helpless and small. Still feel that.

Police went after people and beat them up. They went into houses, climbed on to the terraces and hit a protestor shouting slogans, they hit women too. Mind you, the TV anchor kept telling us that the footage was not clips being repeated again and again. They recorded and broadcasted the entire 40 minutes, lathi blow by lathi blow.

I have to friggin work for a living, but how I wish I didnt have dependents, so I could take to the streets myself. A rage builds up inside me, and I look like a fool when all these people around me seem to have taken it in their stride. Everything I do, then, seems like it's no point.

And I wonder like I have wondered many a time before: is there something wrong with me or is it okay to feel this rage? Does every experience have to be personal for you to take a stand, for you to feel anything at all? Also, if something's a 'political' issue, do you shut off that part of the brain that handles emotions? I know, it's unfashionable to be 'political' or 'emotional' nowadays. Corporate slick is in.

When we complain about a work day lost because of a bandh (which is a fair enough complaint), do we even think once about those people who have lost their livelihood forever? What about their lost work days?

Even if I were a die-hard Leftist, when Singur happened I would stop for a moment and re-think my allegiances. Like my friend Finny did. She read and saw for herself what I had explained over chat, and she went with me to Esplanade where Mamata is fasting for two days, and showed her support.

Because, she was moved.
I think that's what gets lost in all this government propaganda about development. Your capacity to feel.

Of course, the other question is: I do feel for the farmers. But what can I do? Not everyone of us can go on fasts, or take to the streets. But there is one thing you can do: remember. Till the next elections.

15 December 2006

Take a stand

Not that this is 'the' time to take a stand... it's been so for quite some time now. But how much longer will it take for people to understand what the powers-that-be mean by 'development'.

I paste below an article from The Statesman (link here). I wonder if the ABP group would ever carry anything close to this:

Jabberwocky: Singur thoughts

Samantak Das


IF Singur does not bother you, you can safely avoid reading this piece. What is happening there right now is a matter of considerable concern for substantial numbers of people and I do not intend to add to the debates raging around the acquisition of land, the lies and obfuscations, state repression, police brutality, the claims of the one-lakh-car versus the people’s right to their land, the fairness or otherwise of the compensation paid (or not), and so forth and so on.
But it might be possible to consider Singur in the light of some larger changes that have been taking place in India (much of it outside public scrutiny and off the pages of newspapers), which seem to spell a sea change in the way our elected leaders (irrespective of where they are located in the political spectrum) are looking at the single largest occupational group in our country — the unsung and ignored farmers who comprise (by conservative estimates) some 65 per cent of all Indians.
First, our netas appear to have come to the conclusion that the only way to ensure the future of our farmers and, by extension, of our production of and security regarding food, is by gradually withdrawing the state and its support from the farm sector. (In witness whereof one can cite the proposed Seeds Act, 2004, and the Draft National Policy for Farmers of April 2006, both of which speak favourably of a reduced role of the state in farming.)
Second, the vacuum created by the withdrawal of the state is sought to be filled by the private sector (which includes transnational corporations). The two documents alluded to above both speak of a much increased role of the private sector and “public-private partnership” in increasing the quality and quantity of farm inputs, outputs and incomes derived from agriculture.
Third, industrialisation is seen as an unmitigated good to be pursued, even at the cost of food and (perhaps more importantly) water security.
Fourth, only lip service is paid to issues of ecologically safe and sustainable practices, especially when it comes to agriculture.
Fifth, in all of this, little or no effort is being made to seek the views of those likely to be most directly, and drastically, affected by these proposed changes, namely, the farmers themselves.
If all of these changes come into being, as seems very likely to be the case, their net result will be a severe compromising of our national food and water security, an increased dependence on (patented, hence costly) technology, a further impoverishment of farmers and a severe deepening of the rural vs urban, agriculture vs industry, rich vs poor divisions.
What is happening in Singur is not only about repressive state machinery swaying to industrial capital’s siren song, nor is it about the future of a “resurgent”, industrialised West Bengal. It is really about the name and nature and future of “development” itself.
Singur is not an isolated incident and if, by some quirk (such as the Tatas’ withdrawing their offer), the status quo (prior to land acquisition) were to be restored, things would not revert to “normal”. It is a symptom of a much larger malaise — one which, if left unaddressed, not just by political parties, but by civil society, by ordinary citizens like you and me (who might not have a direct stake in what is happening there), could well spell the end of a way of life we take for granted. The question each one of us needs to ask herself or himself, at this critical juncture of our country’s history, is — which side am I on?

(Samantak Das knows just which side he is on, but isn’t sure it’ll do anyone any good.)

And what a find!

Oh and yes, how can we not talk about yesterday's bandh. Total and successful. The CPI-M was beaming inside, of course, but dared not say as much. The transport minister very generously said that people who wished to go to work could walk it. You know, reclaim the street and all.

Was watching Aajtak with Finny in the evening and man, was I bowled over by the choicest words the anchor had for the CITU and their political fathers.

Around my street corner near the bidi shop, about 50 crows held a meeting in a circle for over an hour. So earnestly, that perhaps the shop guy got a lil anxious and said, "Meetinger pore micchil hote pare (There'll probably be a procession after the meeting)." Oh, in case you were wondering, the bidi shop was open just for an hour.

But anyways, Babus, I think all of us got the message loud and clear: You are all-powerful, and we shudder in fear. Who else could bring this great chaotic city to clam up like you did? Truly, impressed.

10 December 2006

And while there was peace………

My mom called a couple of days ago and asked me how the situation was in Kolkata. Was about to brief her on the developments since last week, when she cut me short with, “I heard some people created trouble at the Tata showroom.”

I don’t blame the news editors of the Kannada paper my mom read. It wasn’t their fault that the national media and the English-language newspapers in Kolkata did a good job of mellowing down the Singur protest. They were only rivalled by a very impotent Congress in their phenomenal ignoring of the issue. Delhi, after all, is the bigger picture/pocket.

By last Monday, most of the media here were quite sure that the gift was ready to be delivered, wrapped with shiny barbed wire and all.

Never mind that fear-stricken farmers were fleeing their home and their land. Never mind that even as I key this in, Section 144 still remains clamped on ‘normal’ Singur. Also, never mind that Medha Patkar was prevented from entering Presidency College to address a gathering of students day before yesterday, forget Singur and the farmers yaar.

Oh, and by the way there was no mention at all in the TOI/The Telegraph/The Statesman of the huge rally that Patkar addressed in Haldia. Don’t know about the rest.

All for cars. Cars for all? I wonder if the Rs 1 lakh cars made this way will be distributed via the PDS. Because, I hear, on each car Tata will make a loss of Rs 16,000.

And yes, please pick up a copy of this week’s Business World if you can. I excerpt the last two paragraphs from a column a guy writes under a pseudo name Emcee. He’s usually good, but this week, he’s even better:

OK, for those of you who are really dull and have no regard for Marxist theory, here’s a simple reason why we want to locate the Tata plant in Singur: the local MLA is from the Opposition, so it doesn’t really matter if we lose votes there.
And of course, we want industries to come and set up shop in the state. Why would you want a communist party for that? You have a point there, so let me tell you a secret — we will soon change our party’s name to the Capitalist Party of India (Miltonfriedmanist). But don’t worry — it will still be the CPI(M).

Lal salaam to Comrade Tata

03 December 2006

Fenced in

Land owners in Singur refusing to budge were chased from their land, dragged out of their houses and beaten on live TV, for more than half an hour. Oh yeah, the police were 'provoked' by an acid bulb, and a random stone. The Babus make the police sound like a bunch of criminals who cant be reined in once on the rampage. I guess they are right.

Media was forced to shut their mouths about the Trinamul 'hooliganism' in the Assembly and talk, for once, about broken bones, and not broken furniture.

We shall do whatever is required for industrialisation, said Buddha.



A couple of days ago, I was talkin to a very close friend about Singur. The guy's high up in the news business in Delhi. I was tryin to convince him about the importance of the protest, about how this was not a 'routine' event even by WB standards. He began by telling me that such land grabs have happened all over the country, and that how the Assembly event was shameful, etc. I gritted my teeth and listened. Then told him that in none of the other states, attempts have been made to seal off the entire village, not even allowing the Leader of the Opposition, or the media (does it matter if such a thing has already happened? Must we get shocked only at a new act of cruelty?.) This conversation was before yesterday's police brutality, else it would have strengthened my argument.

Finally, he was out with it: news is no longer a profession: it's a business. South India, and the metros form our viewership base. (His is an English-language news channel.) West Bengal is not a market.

I was just hoping... there'd be a chance.

30 November 2006

where we teach you how to screw with a straight face

The Babus have committed a faux pas today. Nothing is up on the news sites yet, so no links here. Mamata was arrested a couple of hours ago for protesting against selling of agricultural land to industrialists. And then later dumped on Hooghly Bridge.

A few days ago, The Babus gave themselves away, big time. They said they wanted to allow selling of barga land (belonging to sharecroppers) for some sops and also make land acquisition easier. Clearer picture here.

Land brought them power. Land gave them the right to look down upon others and say, 'We get elected each time, coz we are the saviours of the poor.'

It's the same land that they now want to sell asap. Cant give enough to 'em capitalists. Other states in the country made selling of land for commercial purpose legal a long time ago. The Mannina Maga did it in my state. But the point is, the ruling parties in those states did it with a cruel straightness. They werent trained much in hypocritical snobbish bastardism with a straight face.

Two questions: 1. Will The Babus now call themselves the Capitalist Party of India-Money?
2. Now, that they have proven themselves beyond doubt to be JUST ANOTHER PARTY, can we move them over, people?

29 November 2006

Expandable memory

The deepest sorrows are those that stay with you, always, all the way.

Does growing up mean you understand you’ll never be the same again… and you sport a cynical line here and there?

How we think we will or we have forgotten, and move… only to remember it first thing in the morning, or after a long long day at office, when the only things you should be thinking about are food and sleep or a quickie, you know …

My cousin V keeps coming back to me, so does a lost love. Unshakeable in their absence, both. But V vaccums out something in the centre of me. I have cried before too, but these tears aren’t drying up. Each time, it’s vigorous. What could you lose at 18? when you haven’t even got much…

I grow more reckless by the day… live it now-types… and want to tell a client that ‘zilch’ is not slang because that’s her middle name. Will, will… soon.

Have strange nightmares nowadays… of daughters dying… daughters whom I know. Makes me guilty, but it came to me… not the other way round. When I wake up, it’s even worse though: I try to imagine the father’s face…

Don’t make babies: the future will hold them hostage.

25 November 2006

Mukesh, appa, my first article, etc

The earliest music I remember listening to is Mukesh, Mohammed Rafi, and Manna Dey with my dad while he downed his drinks in the evening. The smattering of Urdu that he’d learnt was through these songs, so was to be mine. Through the years, we listened to the same songs with dad explaining the meaning of particularly beautiful phrases. He wanted to make sure I understood the lyrics.

Dil jalta hai, to jalne de

Aasoo na baha, fariyad na kar

Dil jalta hai, to jalne de

Tu parada nasheen ka aashiq hai 
Yoon naam-e-wafa barabaad na kar 
Dil jalata hai to jalane de ….
 
This was Mukesh’s first song and our favourite. It’s also a very niche song,
I realize as I have never, in all these years, heard this played anywhere.

Big time nostalgia today, coz I found this suddenly in my Yahoo briefcase.

I'd written a most amateurish piece on a ballet in a village. JS
replied:

Vijaya: You pushed me into a corner. Do I tell you of defects before I explain them to you, or do I pat your back now (only to thump it later)?

I limit my comments to a few striking flaws that I shall be talking about. I’ve inked red what I don’t like in your piece, and you’ll find my comments in blue.

But don’t let my comments discourage you. The defects that I’ve marked aren’t peculiar to you. Nor are you to blame. You’ve unconsciously absorbed all these and more from the Indlish-language papers and magazines you’ve been reading.

That’s what you’ll have to purge out of your system. And I’ll help you to purge them. I’ll give you lots of notes. They’ll give you short-cuts how to replace Indlish with English. I hope you’ll read them.

Only, there’s no short-cut to writing. Except maybe one: write, then re-write, then re-write what you’ve re-written.

We’ll have many interesting sessions on writing. Till then and after, keep writing. JS


The sessions continue... never seem to learn enough.

Nostalgia fuelled also by a photo of myself that I found. The pic's at least 4 years old. Cant recognise myself!

11 November 2006

Six rupees

That's how much Baby Naaz's family of five earns in a good day, cutting about 240 rubber slipper straps.

Six rupees for three meals for five people.

If it weren't so tragic, it would have made for a brain-racking puzzle.

(Part of ongoing work for a local NGO here. With luck, should be able to post all the stories here in the coming weeks.)

29 October 2006

.

My cousin died yesterday night. She jumped in front of a rushing train. I heard of it today morning at 7.

She was 18. I first saw her when she was about a week old, very roly-poly healthy baby. I still remember how big a baby she was. She loved to eat fruits, raw vegetables, anything that came her way actually. And she slept very well.

Somehow, as I keep thinking of her now, it’s her baby face that comes to my mind, not her as a teenager. Particularly one day, when I was waiting for her to wake up so I could cuddle her. She took her time, and I almost forced her awake. She turned her little black eyes on me, and gave me the sweetest smile. I even remember the colour of the little T-shirt she wore: light chocolate.

One other image is her Madhuri Dixit smile. She was a charming teenager, shy, and quiet with strangers, bubbly and talkative with her friends and family. Sometimes, she would flash this dazzling smile, unconscious of how beautiful she looked.

She grew up in Shrsi, my hometown, and in Bhattaguttige, my mother’s village. She loved the outdoors, and could always be found perched on guava trees. She knew exactly which part of a hill had a particular wild berry.


It’s more than 12 hours now since I heard. There’s just one image in my eyes: that of a train rushing towards me in the dark. What would it take for me to stand there, rooted? What did it take for her?

She was cremated half an hour ago.

27 October 2006

Would you report it if you were raped?

"....the landlord and his son tried to rape me. Somehow I managed to get away. I didn't report the incident to the police because, back in 1980, it was widely recognised that women who reported a sexual assault were usually seen as liars.

....In 1982, a fly-on-the-wall documentary, Police: A Complaint of Rape, showed a rape complainant being interviewed by police. The police officers were shown bullying a woman into discontinuing her complaint against three men.

...Despite improvements, there remains a culture within the police that assumes that women who report rape are lying. One study found that a third of police assumed that at least a quarter of all reports were false. Research actually suggests, though, that numbers of false allegations of rape are no higher than for any other crime. Assumptions of false allegations are plainly dangerous. One case discontinued by police as a "false allegation" involved a man who turned out to be a serial sex attacker."

Guess which country's police system are we talkin about?

20 October 2006

Gujarat - Another country

Bajrangi’s Navchetan works to prevent inter-religious love marriages, and if such a wedding has already taken place, it works to break the union. When a marriage between a Hindu woman and Muslim man gets registered in a court, within a few days the marriage documents generally end up on Bajrangi’s desk, ferreted out by functionaries in the lower judiciary. The girl is subsequently kidnapped and sent back home; the boy is taught a lesson. “We beat him in a way that no Muslim will dare to look at Hindu women again. Only last week, we made a Muslim eat his own waste – thrice, in a spoon,” he reveals with barely concealed pride. All this is illegal, Bajrangi concedes, but it is moral. “And anyway, the government is ours,” he continues, turning to look at the clock. “See, I am meeting Modi in a while today.”

Got this on the National Highway.

My family and other animals

Pure delight - that's Gerald Durrel's My family and other animals. Durrel's description is exquisite. He paints very vivid pictures, and his sense of humour is unique. You never know when a laugh is creeping up on you, and then you cant stop. It's not the loud ha-ha, hee-hee kind. It's the kind that has you in knots, and you keep smiling to yourself. Of course, this was another kind of entertainment for my co-passengers in the Metro, but I said, laugh and let see.

Discovered Durrel pretty late in life, but he's marked now. Here's one of my favourite passages from My family...

"… The wedding night – or rather day – of a tortoise is not exactly inspiring…

…The incredibly heavy-handed and inexpert way the male [tortoise] would attempt to hoist himself on to the female’s shell, slipping and slithering, clawing desperately for a foothold on the shiny shields, overbalancing and almost overturning, was extremely painful to watch; the urge to go and assist the poor creature was almost overwhelming, and I had the greatest difficulty in restraining myself from interference.


Once a male was infinitely more bungling than usual, and fell down three times during the mounting, and generally behaved in such an imbecile manner I was beginning to wonder if he were going to take all summer about it… At last, more by luck than skill, he hoisted himself up… when the female obviously bored by the male’s inadequacy, moved a few steps towards a dandelion leaf. Her husband clawed wildly at her moving shell, but could get no foothold; he slipped off, teetered for a minute, and then rolled ignominiously over on to his back. This final blow seemed to be too much for him, because, instead of trying to right himself, he simple folded up in his shell and lay there mournfully. The female, meanwhile, ate the dandelion leaf."

14 October 2006

I want to go home

Yaava mohana murali kareyitu doora teerake ninnanu

Yaava Brindavanavu seleyitu ninna mannina kannanu

..................


Iruvdaellava bittu iradudaredege tudivude jeevana

11 October 2006

Hello

No, I wasn't swearing all the while. Was quite my angelic self ;)

Loads of work right now, as if a punishment for the carefree week that whizzed by.

Have loads to write about, God willing.

27 September 2006

Clearing my system

'Gaali dena chahiye. Man halka hota hai,' said Sanju.

At it now.

23 September 2006

Sabse bada rupaiya

In his latest Coke ad, Aamir Khan assures you that the drink is absolutely safe, etc.

Just tell me one thing: if the cola giants are so virgin-white, what's stoppin them from taking CSE to the court? There's something called the defamation suit, you know.

One guess: perhaps they learnt something from the McLibel trial.

The McLibel Trial is the infamous British court case between McDonald's and a former postman & a gardener from London (Helen Steel and Dave Morris). It ran for two and a half years and became the longest ever English trial. The defendants were denied legal aid and their right to a jury, so the whole trial was heard by a single Judge, Mr Justice Bell. He delivered his devastating verdict in June 1997.

But, whatever happened to the citizen Aamir?


19 September 2006

And we still drink this shit

This news is a couple of days late, but I had to talk about it.

Coca Cola on Saturday told the Supreme Court something that the court was used to hearing only from the exectuive and legislature of the country: don't interfere.

"Coca-Cola, fighting allegations that its products contain high levels of pesticide, argued that it lay beyond the apex court’s powers to regulate soft drink contents or prescribe safety standards.

“In these circumstances, it is respectfully submitted that the interference of this hon’ble court would be entirely unwarranted and contrary to the constitutional scheme."

18 September 2006

You figure it out

I was told recently that my blog lacked consistency. Yeah, perhaps true. But what should my blog be 'consistent' with? What should it 'focus' on? And why? Observe your chain of thoughts. Is there anything consistent about them?

There is nothing consistent within. Is that perhaps why we seek it outside?

This post is a think-aloud one. It perhaps makes as much or as little sense to you as it does to me. After writing this, I am filled with even more questions than what I began with. So, if you still wanna read, am delighted.

To come back to what I was saying, this comment (from a well-meaning fellow blogger) set me thinking about the search for consistency. Why do we seek a pattern, a code perhaps to decipher each other, or a situation? I have dealt with something similar before in my blog. The search for routine, a sameness, despite all the outerward clamour for change and 'something different'.

I think this search for consistency is mostly powered by our sense of well-being. We need to know, understand, and assess the situation we are in or the person we are dealing with to give the 'right' responses, to give us a sense of being in control, to not be 'surprised'.

Once we know, understand, and assess the situation/person, we dig in to our chest of past experiences for ready responses and if there isn't any, perhaps fashion a new one.

It's almost a need to 'orientalise', I guess. It's a basic, primal need. And I can't say I havent felt it ever. I used to need categories to put people/situations in and de-alienate them. I wanted coherence, perhaps I still do unconsciously. But consciously, at least, (I know, I know, I am making huge assumptions when I say 'consciously' and unconsciously') I have been trying to un-learn this need for quite some time now. Or, let's say, I'd like to believe that I'm un-learning it. The little life I have seen tells me that it's quite beautiful to not be in control, to leave some dimensions unknown, and also that there's much within to know, understand, and analyse, much inside that I need to familiarise myself with. Immense possibilities within...

Here's why I started this blog. It still holds true. I see variety in life and I love to be 'surprised' (or rather I realise you dont have a choice but to be surprised). I am many persons, so is my blog.

This definitely is not the end of this post. But I must thank him for some much-needed honesty :)

09 September 2006

Of spirit and flesh

I share this chat here for your general entertainment. Any lucky Kannadiga males out there with profiles matching can contact Finny (while I run for cover).

me: this is what non-kannadigas dont understnad. bangalore can never stand for karnataka

me: there r at least 3-4 distinct regions in karnataka.

finny: okay. yes its pretty big

finny: but i have to say, i like the chillness of the kannadiga

finny: and theyre more often than not, elegant

me: hmm

finny: noble in some sense theyre not aware of

me: whats with the chill?

me: noble, yes :)

finny: i'm talking of the farmers also who walk down the city

finny: man, theyre so distinctly good looking and cool.

me: ;)

finny: ok. i'll stop there.

me: when i first came to Cal, I couldnt take my eyes off these bihari men bathing by the street tap

me: what ripplin bodies

finny: o

finny: still

me: all mostly hamals or rickshaw-pullers

finny: i prefer the spare economy of the kannadiga body

me: happily flauntin their wares

me: hmm, bihari is raunchy

finny: lean muscle and all

me: yeah, ok ok

finny: i hate raunchy

me: i love raunchy

finny: i hate raunchy

finny: i mean. whats the point?

me: i mean.. that's the whole point

me: and why not?

finny: lean muscle is spiritual and acheived

me: raunchy is the here and now

finny: it transcends

me: dust and earth

finny: the eternal

finny: immortal

me: this brings u down, most probaly with him on top

me: grin

finny: it levitates and becomes time

finny: what brings one down? the muscle

me: yes, a diff kind of mcuscle

finny: see if the spirit then he wont be wrangling with bodies anymore

finny: its like air

me: sprit be damned

finny: its is found. it is there.

me: cant survive on air

finny: the beauty of it

finny: the timelesness of it

finny: the belgaum boy

finny: (ok i dont know what that last thing is supposed to mean)

me: belgaum boys r as raunchy as bihari

finny: sorry the hubli boy

me: that too

finny: wherever the farmers ive seen are from

finny: now dont tell me they migrated from bihar

me: the shirsi boy, or bangalore boy may come close to what u say

finny: ok the sirsi boy

Will leave you there. Dare not publish the more explosive stuff...

For fear of flying

Warning: Work un-safe image ahead.

31 August 2006

Found on a bookmark

'The path of excess leads to the tower of wisdom.

'The pleasure of satisfying a savage instinct undomesticated by the ego is incomparably much more intense then the one of satisfying a tamed instinct. The reason is becoming the enemy that prevents us from a lot of possibilities of pleasure.'

-- Source unknown




They know all about you

Every time you use an internet search engine, your inquiry is stored in a huge database. Would you like such personal information to become public knowledge? Yet for thousands of AOL customers, that nightmare has just become a reality. Read more.


I used to work for a search engine not so long ago, and am quite familiar with the in's and out's of what is talked about in this article. But I still cant fathom how AOL ever dared to put out such data... Even if it is a mistake, it's pretty scary, coz such 'mistakes' must never happen at all.

23 August 2006

Indlish

What is Indlish? It's all these: mistranslated expressions from Indian languages; a khichri of officialese, legalese and commercialese of the eighteenth century; meaningless fad coinages; vague abstractions; automatic expressions; the use of nouns instead of action words; un-English use of the passive voice.

Go get a copy guys. Very interesting read and not your run-of-the-mill 'improve-your-english' type books.

Especially, journos would profit a lot.

More about the book here.
Read excerpts here.
Can't find the book? Tell the publishers here.
You can also mail the author at indlishthebook@gmail.com

21 August 2006

Important backyards

Here's U R Ananthamurthy's apt analogy of the frontyard and backyard of a traditional Indian house applied to literature. Some excerpts:

"... the backyard (was) the most magical space for me. Had I not frequented it and eavesdropped on the gossips there, I would never have become a writer.

"... The two worlds of the front and the back have ever since been meeting creatively in our literary works. The back-yard is inexhaustible. As literacy spreads and more and more people emerge into the frontyard of our civilization they bring their own richness, as memories, and desire to integrate with the mainstream of world literature.

"... When the royal path becomes pompous and loud and artificially rhetorical and, therefore, a voice of public emotion only it loses the flexibility and truthfulness and earthiness of the common speech. It is at such moments of cultural crisis that the traditions in the backyard make a come-back and revitalize the language. This is what Wordsworth, Blake and Hopkins have done to the English language in their own country, and in our country the saint poets like Tukaram, Basava, Nanak and Kabir have done it with much greater consequence for our culture. The Shudras and women were empowered by the great saint poets of India. No one can talk about literature in the Indian bhashas without recognizing its intimate relationship with larger political and cultural questions."


(Immensely homesick, his description of his house makes me.)

20 August 2006

What is the main point?

Yesterday, I attended a talk by my boss and teacher Jyoti Sanyal on writing. The audience consisted of school teachers who taught English. Sanyal, essentially, was trying to drive home the point that children, when left alone, uninterrupted by adults, can be creative. It’s we adults who spoil the fun.

Of course, quite a few teachers were up in arms at the idea that teachers in India often stifle the child. But this woman had me stupefied. She gets up and throws this question at Sanyal, “I’d asked the children to write an essay on going to a picnic in the forest. And this kid comes out with the story that he was lost in the forest, and then he became a tree, and bore fruits. When children go away from the main idea like this, don’t you think we should correct them?”

I wanted to ask her, “What then is the main idea, ma’m?” I didn’t have the opportunity to, because she was being already being ragged by quite a few.

What is this obsession with the main idea? Is there a main idea at all? Does there have to be a main idea? And how does the teacher assume that becoming a tree and bearing fruits is not a main idea for the kid? Why, oh why, do we have to assume that there is one main idea, and it is, was, and always shall be for the rest of mankind?

If the same story was written by some damned pseudo-academic and then included in the curriculum, I am sure the same teacher would be cramming the story down her students’ gullets. But, it was just a kid who’d written this non-sense. It was her bounden duty to correct him. The child would then be forever doomed to searching for the main idea. Remember, he’s been told it’s out there.

And then, morals. Oh, I must tell you this one. Sanyal asked the teachers why they couldn’t tell children stories without morals, like that of Ashwatthama. Again, a very disturbed teacher asked him, “What do you mean? We don’t need to teach our children morals? Should there be no morality at all?”

And it suddenly struck me that this is the root of all fundamentalism. The need to see things in just two colours, the denial of a million other hues that do exist, the urgency to defend ‘yourselves’ against ‘them’ - all spring from the thought that there is a moral to a story and that there is a main idea.

This world sucks way too much man.

11 August 2006

Finds

Ardh Satya... instant biting quatrains on what's happening in this great country. Apolitical creatures, stay away though.

Another recommendation: Kailash Kher's Kailasa. It's medicine.

09 August 2006

Rabbi

Here's the former Asya's post on Rabbi. Cant agree more with her. And am I glad she's back!

08 August 2006

Contexts

Why do we always need to place people in certain contexts? Why do our conversations with strangers mostly begin with where he is from, what language does he speak, etc? Is connection possible without contexts?

29 July 2006

Delight of the day

I remembered that Mish'd told me that AOL Radio was now free. So, imagine my glee when I tuned in today and was greeted with 'The Pub With No Beer'. Yippie, I am happy for today.

20 July 2006

Really? Does this work?!!

You mean I can post this. And you can read it through newsfeeds?

Really? Does this work?!!

You mean I can post this. And you can read it through newsfeeds?

17 July 2006

Adding on

Adding on to what I talked about in my last post:

Yesterday was another of our lazy rambling Sundays with Riddhi. When I mentioned my last post, his immediate reacton was, "So what are the swear words in a matriarchal family?"

Interesting.

My guess was that even then perhaps, the father of the person you want to insult would'nt be touched.

13 July 2006

The M word

Why is it that the worst insults you can think of are all about your mother?

I hadn’t thought of it this way:


Why aren't fathers the butt of insults so much as mothers? "The underlying idea is you're attacking what your rival came out of. That's why it's mothers rather than fathers who feature in the more potent insult. Everybody comes from their mother".

27 May 2006

Quite Right?

When Mr Buddha talked of a 'liberal' industrial policy on his swearing-in earlier this month, I had figured something like this was coming. (Note that the paper calls it a 'small' incident though 1,000 villagers protested.)

And then Mr Basu was upset at the absurd behaviour of the villagers. I mean, why would they want to stop industrial development?

Not to worry, Mr Buddha has said, "Nothing has happened."

Now, arent they quite Right?

A happening government

The following is from my mail to a friend who had written to me about the ongoing medical students' protest against reservation:

Reservation is probably the easiest way to gain political mileage. Each time a fresh quota is announced, there's so much protest by the people and posturing by the government that it pretty much stays in public memory. And the government, the Congress in this instance, can beat its drums in the next election saying how they championed the rights of the downtrodden.


You have touched upon the merit factor. So, I won’t repeat it. Some other issues:


Quite a lot of jobs reserved in the government either remain empty or are taken up by the creamy layer. Does the government have any way of ensuring that the creamy layer doesn’t get creamier? Second, why do these seats remain empty? Does the poorest of the person for which this reservation is made, have two meals to eat, and clean water to drink? If he/she doesn’t, why not?


Most of the rural poor today are in a much worse condition than ever before. Migrating to the city is the only hope. But it is not a solution, of course, because once in the city, theey join the ranks of the urban poor.

So, why are the rural poor so poor? My answer would be: inequities in land ownership. That is ONE big reason why India's poor are gettin poorer. No party anywhere wants to talk about land reforms. Why not? For that matter, poverty is not an issue nowadays. It's mostly infrastructure, more employment, etc. (Mind you, to avail these 'employment' benefits, you still have to come to a city. If you are a villager, you are more or less doomed.)


You might be wondering why I went from reservation to land reforms and rural poverty. Take some poorest districts in India like kalahandi in Orissa. How many people have benefitted from reservation in higher education in that district? (Indeed, I think a study should be done on the effects of reservation in India's poorest districts.) Or, to frame the question in a different way, does reservation in higher education address the problems the people are facing in Kalahandi?


Kalahandi is the rice bowl of Orissa, yet the farmers there survive on things like mango kernels. Reason: debt. Reason for debt: inequitable land distribution which will never be set right.


But land reform is not a fashionable political issue. Industrial development is. Infrastructure is. Reservation, definitely is.


Oh, do I hear some people to the left, saying 'We're different. We're the only people who've brought about land reforms.' Then how come people in their state (West Bengal, where else) too die hunger deaths? Why is it that farmers protesting land takeover by Tata Motors are considered insane by the ex-chief minister? [More about this in another post.]


Anyways, you know all of that. To cap what I've gone on and on about: reservation is just one of the ways to address poverty. But politicians would have us believe it's the only way. Now why get into messy things like improving primary education, health access, etc?

05 May 2006

How true!

Read Germaine Greer's article in the Guardian on women and leisure.

I remember teasing my mom often that after dad went to office and we went to school, she would probably have a long nap. Coz, what would she do all day? Surely, there couldnt be so much work?!

Mom would smile and say, "Wait, you'll know."

I know now. Though I am not the type of women that Greer talks about who try to clean an already-clean house or who cook a three-course meal, just doing the bare basics around the house and managing office work seems to take up all of my time during weekdays.

That's why Sunday is my dont-even-lift-a-finger day (provided the maid too doesnt think alike, of course).

But havent most of us forgotten the art of leisure? Or is it just women?

25 April 2006

Who's lovin it?

What is pasted below is nothing new, at least to people who have some inkling of how MNC fast food chains work. I cant remember if I have posted about No Logo. It's a very meticulously researched book about the stories of many lives behind each branded T-shirt that we wear, cold drink that we consume, PC that we use. In fact, the book says that there is no way you can use something in today's world that is not touched by sweatshop labour.

The whole game is about cheap labour and covering it up with feel-good advertising to the extent that you become numb to the sweatshop stories. It's all there in the book, No Logo. I would say it is a consumer's must-read. If for nothing else, to just know how much extra he or she is shelling out for something that cost so little to make.

An extract from a Guardian article:

McDonald's Happy Meal toys are manufactured in countries where the prices are low. On the bottom of these toys you often find the phrase "Made in China". Too often the lives of the workers who make Happy Meal toys are anything but happy. In 2000, a reporter for the South China Morning Post visited a factory near Hong Kong. The factory made Snoopy, Winnie the Pooh and Hello Kitty toys for McDonald's Happy Meals. Some of the workers at the factory said they were 14 years old and often worked 16 hours a day. Their wages were less than 20 cents (11p) an hour - almost 30 times less than the lowest amount you can pay an American worker. They slept in small rooms crammed with eight bunk beds without mattresses.

At first, McDonald's said it had seen no evidence that such poor conditions existed at the factory, but later it admitted that some things were wrong there. A few months later, a reporter found that another factory in China that made Happy Meal toys was mistreating its workers. They were working 17 hours a day - and being paid less than 10 cents an hour. McDonald's now tries to ensure that children aren't employed to make its toys. But the company hasn't done much to increase the wages of the workers at Chinese toy factories. Low wages are one of the things that keep Happy Meal toys so cheap.

In fact, low wages are at the heart of the whole enterprise. Danielle Brent is a 17-year-old schoolgirl at Martinsburg High School in West Virginia. On Saturday mornings the alarm in her mobile phone goes off at 5.30am. It's still dark outside as she stumbles into the bathroom, takes a shower, puts on her makeup and gets into her McDonald's uniform. Her father stays in bed, but her mother always comes downstairs to the kitchen and says goodbye before Danielle leaves for work. Sometimes, it's really cold in the morning and it takes a while for the engine of the family's old car to start cranking out heat. There are a lot of other things she would rather be doing early on a Saturday morning - such as sleeping. But like thousands of other American kids of her age, Danielle gets up and goes to work at a fast food restaurant.

When Danielle was a little girl, she loved to eat at McDonald's. Sometimes she would even go there for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she was 16, a friend suggested that she apply for a job at the McDonald's near Interstate 81. The friend already worked there, classmates of theirs always ate there and working behind the counter sounded like fun.

Danielle soon realised that the job was different from what she had expected. Some of the customers were rude. Workers in the kitchen didn't always wash their hands and didn't care if the food got dirty as a result. Her friend soon quit the job, but Danielle can't afford to do that. She needs the money. A number of kids at school tease her for working so hard at a job that pays so little. Kids who break the law and sell drugs at her high school earn more money in a couple of hours than Danielle earns at McDonald's in a couple of weeks.

You can read the full article here.

20 April 2006

Morning cup of fun

You cant beat them at originality. I almost fell of my chair laughing reading this:

"Campaigning in Kerala, Manmohan Singh called the Congress’s rival there, the Left, a “valued” ally. In the middle of elections in Bengal, where too the Congress is ranged against the Left, Pranab Mukherjee talked about Pakistan and Iran."


Read the full article here.

Something saved

The Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor got a go-ahead today from the Supreme Court, but the little bit of good news is that the land and IT sharks will not be able to gobble any land for building 'self-sustainable'(!?) townships.

So, now, yippee, we can get to Mysore in 90 minutes instead of the earlier gruelling-inspite-of-the-AC four hours. Never mind the cows and the farmers.

13 April 2006

How original

The Karnataka government-appointed committee on farmer suicides had said in 2002 that the farmers were killing themselves not because of crop failure or poverty or any such reason. Alcoholism was to blame.

This time, the Maharashtra government has gone one step ahead. Really.

10 March 2006

Faces

So many of them. Most middle-aged. There are the college-going types, and the work-at-office-and-work-at-home types, the lechs, the gum-chewing ones, the pimpled ones, the taken care of ones, and the neglected ones.

Middle-aged woman stops abruptly in front of me and warmly shakes the hand of a middle-aged guy. Could they be long-lost college mates? Unlikely. There'd have been a pause, and an exclamation. This is most like Saturday club types.

How we like to classify people as this or that type! It is our way of dealing with the unknown. Examine, classify, and file. And then keep coming back to the library. Much as it helps, this tendency of ours has been responsible for some of the worst human tragedies. Orientalism by Edward Said is a study into such tendencies.

Notes on the way to office.

20 February 2006

Halfway through

Suketu Mehta is a true believer in New Journalism. Draws vivid pictures, reports
conversation verbatim, and no comments whatsoever. Not apolitical though. Strong
stands on the Rent Act, Bal Thackeray, and the daily torture of living in Bombay.

As a friend said, Suketu is one of the few Indian (or non-resident Indian) writers in
English who have successfully translated Indian colloquial into English. No mean task
that. It's something most Indian journalists fail at. Try translating what you hear on the
bus while holding on to the flavour.

Most of what Suketu writes about Bombay is, of course, true of the larger picture -- India.
But then, that's natural. How else do we know India, if not through our streets and cities?
How else do we know the world for that matter? K V Subbanna, in his essay 'My
Kannada World', says that the world for each of us is just what we encounter in our
personal lives. Most of often, when we refer to the 'whole world', we do not refer to all
the people and all the countries in the world. It's just the persons and places you know,
have heard of, have read about, or seen on TV that form 'your' world.

Hitch a ride to the Maximum City. It's a rare journey.

06 February 2006

Maximum City

Last summer a friend of mine was reading Maximum City by Suketu Mehta. I picked it up and flipped through. Something about Bollywood caught my eye. I sat down to read some more, and more. It is one of the few reent books that as we say in Kannada, "odisikondu hoguttade". That is, it takes you by the hand and runs at top speed.

I couldnt finish the book then: my friend was half-way through and wouldnt let go. But it has me now.

More later.