Saturday, November 29, 2008

I thank the Black Cats and oh yes, the Sena

(I base this post on a quirky sms doing the rounds.)

Only a month ago Raj Thakeray was all bravado and big talk about how he is the messiah of the people of Mumbai.

I could sit in Delhi and still see the enormous chip on his shoulder as his hired goons methodically smashed taxis run by North Indians and beat up visibly clueless and shaken UPite and Bihari boys as young as 20 years old as they sat government exams.

I could see his men (actually the jury is still out on that) relaxing for a while (beating up people is a tiring job) waiting for the TV cameras to arrive before going at it again with great zeal.

So when the Mumbai attacks happened I expected the Great Sena to tighten their belts, tie their head bands and rush into the fire and ammunition to save the Marathi Manoos from terrorists.

Or wait. I must be forgetting.

There weren't that many manoos in those buildings to save. Only foreigners and businessmen who add to the city's economy and the Sena never had any problems with them.
These types never do. It is the weak, middle class and the poor who want to carve out a living in the all embracing city they are after.

So when the situation looked black and the nation watched in shocked silence the unfolding of Mumbai's horror, the men in Black arrived.

The NSG Black Cat commandos get a gruelling training when they enlist to a job they do extremely well. They do not have international gears and their discomfiture in dealing with a seasoned media show.

But they know how not to care for their lives and do a job with efficiency and cruel discipline. They did just that.
They lost some of their best men in the encounter and spoke in Hindi (wow, imagine their audacity), Punjabi, Tamil, Bengali and a multitude of other languages.

And they won the day.

The crowd waiting for the bloodshed to end, broke into an impromptu applause and patted our men on their backs when they came out of the hotels exhausted, covered in soot and blood and completely baffled by the affection and adoration of common people and the media.

One said on national TV looking embarrassed and solemn at this unexpected fame - "but it's my country and my duty to defend it. This is what I do for a living."

So as an insignificant Indian writing this from the safe comfort of my home, I salute the men in black.
But my even bigger heartfelt thanks to the Sena men who cowered but generally kept their big mouths shut and stayed out of the way of things and helped make the Mumbai operations a success, if you can call it one, after losing so many lives.


Friday, November 21, 2008

The 'Super Baba' strikes again

Ever since I heard that Baba Ramdev graced the premises of a news organisation in Delhi and demonstrated his amazing yoga tricks for a healthy living to a bunch of journalist who survive on cussing and stale junk food, I have been itching to share a long lost memory.

As I keep reiterating, I am strictly against all forms of health food.
If I'm having salad, I make sure I have three plates to fill my ample stomach.
My opinion on sprouts is well known. Sprouts are best when planted in pretty porcelain pots by the window sill and not on my breakfast plate.

In these circumstances, it's for the best that Baba and me have not yet met.
We would have formed an unholy pair. Like my good man says during an argument - "either you convince me or I convince you."

I for sure would not be able to roll my abdomen and shoulders and swing my thighs rhythmically while sipping bitter gourd juice. So he would have to tuck into Tandoori chicken and Vodka/lime cordial. I have a nagging worry that he would not.

I'm not entirely godless. I have my faith in the supreme being.
But my fanaticism is reserved for more serious issues. Like why Mc Donald's has increased the price of its Aloo Tikki Burger. Or why Hyderabadi Biriyani House has decreased the quantity of its spicy chicken biriyani while almost doubling the price.

So I do not quite understand what perfectly normal, albeit plump, Delhi women see in the Super Baba to leave their household unguarded and flock to his sessions of deep breathing.

Their eyes shine with a manic light even if the Baba is so much as criticized by the media. I have seen women in formal office wear sitting in the cosy depths of their cars at traffic lights, breathing in and breathing out, trying hard to roll their stomach muscles and wiggle their shoulder blades.

But I know all about mass yoga sessions.

It was the summer of 1997 and around 50 of us had trooped into the Bengali extra class in 11th standard. Some of my close friends and me adorned the back seats of the huge classroom where we could carry on with our mischief undisturbed.

I wasn't ready for the pop test nor the acid tongue of the teacher and was hugely relieved when she announced regally "we will do something new today."
The front benchers looked worried, flicking surreptitiously through their syllabus for additional chapters they have not mugged yet.

"We will do pranayaam." she declared.

She could have well said that she's a descendant of an Italian mafioso family and the effect would have been the same.

"What the hell is pranayaam?" we whispered hopefully. Whatever it is, this means we do not have to trudge through grammar.

She showed us soon enough. "Close one nostril with your thumb and breathe through the other one...." And she wanted pin-drop silence in the room of course.

There's a trigger somewhere in the brain for helpless, uncontrolled laughter especially in situations where it would be severely punished.
And my brain refused to heed to any of my stern warnings of dire consequences if I so much as smiled.
But the girl next to me had her eyes closed with such a silly solemn expression pasted on her face, her blocked nose making a 'wheee' sound every time she took in air and alternated her thumbs for both nostrils, that it was my undoing.
Me and another friend (both of us will burn in hell for eternity) keeled over with silent laughter under the desks.

Laughter that would not stop, even when I imagined past deaths of family members, my breakup with a boyfriend, world hunger, poverty in my home state - the damned laughter just wont stop.

It was novelty of it all. A classroom full of girls breathing in and out while we shook in silent laughter on the floor in the extreme corner of the room, students and teachers passing by on the corridors looking in curiously, sounds of chatter coming in from the next room, contrasting with the silence in ours as 48 odd girls practised pranayaam on command.

That friend of mine and me still laugh over it sometimes, though we still don't get what's so funny about it.

When I imagined the Baba perched on a glass topped table on the Editor's work station, surrounded by surly journalists who normally would not be caught doing exercises during mid-afternoon, the dam very nearly broke again.

I have my utmost respect for yoga exponents and do not mean to berate them, but I have a silly grin pasted on my face as I write this.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Indian on Moon - death of poetry?

Indian poets who make a living off comparing their beloved's face with the moon are dying a slow death imagining a high-tech probe scanning the surface of the "mystical orb of the night sky" for trace of metals.

Really, what is all this to-do about the moon?

From Kalidasa to Banbhatt to modern day poets - hundreds of them have sighed and starved away with a vengeance, wasting reams of precious parchments describing their beloved's beauty to the moon.
Had Kalidasa access to the latest pictures released by NASA of the moon, especially its barren craters and dusty lifeless, airless atmosphere, he would have jumped off the terrace of Vikramaditya's palace.

I came across this post on an Internet chat room, presumably for Indian poets. (No, I'm not a member, I would admit to writing poetry only under torture)

LoveSong21 writes "why are they doing this to the moon? Why are they taking away all the mystery? I do NOT want to know its secrets, when I look up I only see Tanya....glowing like an ancient queen on her throne...Oh Tanya why did you leave me to go out with that jack ass Vikas?"

My heart filled with pity for this emotional heart, filled with tender pain. (Although I do not much care for the name LoveSong21. Who does he think he is? Pavarotti?)

Tanya writes back, a tad carelessly if I might add, "stop giving out my name on a public chat room you donkey. you are not worth Vikas' toenail."

But then the business of love thrives on heartbreaks.

India's moon mission has taken off with a bang. and in the next two years scientists hope to get a glimpse of what keeps the moon people ticking.

I do not know if stripping the moon of all its mysteries will do science any great deal of good, but I know for sure it will kill Indian poetry.

Kalidasa's description of a moonlit summer night in Ritusamhara, Sukanto's hard-hitting "khudhar jogotey prithibi godyomoy, purnimar chaand jeno jholshano ruti (all is prose in the world of hunger, the full moon seems like bread to the hungry), Tagore's ode to the moon - over the ages, poets have idolized, worshipped and feted the moon.

And not just in India. Shakespeare writes "O, swear not by the moon, the fickle moon, the inconstant moon".

Not to mention the one million songs written in Bollywood comparing the female lead with the timeless beauty of the moon.
Who will explain to these romantic types that the gravity and atmospheric pressure of the moon is such that it will never support life forms. Its extreme temperature, combined with lack of atmospheric oxygen and water is ideally suited for tourism, if you want a very expensive and violent death.

But will that stop people the world over from eulogising about the moon? I think not. I have a suspicion, that the Indian Poets Association was silent all this while because it was Europe, America and Russia that were intruding the moon.
Since its India doing it now, their hurt, silent, and gentle indignation knows no bounds.
My heart goes out to them and if I were a poet I would not worry so much.
We now know all marine species and life forms there is to know, right?
But has it stopped men from comparing their lover's eyes with the "deep blue sea"?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Election, politics and good looks - lethal combination?

At least no one can accuse US President-elect Barack Obama of leading an ugly team.

His Chief of Staff is a hunk of a man called Rahm Emanuel, possessing demonic good looks.
And Obama himself is not hard to look at - combining a cutting charm and classy suaveness comparable only to the Kennedys.

Yes, this time the US elections were unique for the sheer volume of brawn it combined.

Take Hillary Clinton for example. An initial favourite front-runner with the backing and funding of key politicians and the corporate to see her through vote 2008, or so people thought.

Her shortly-cropped straight blond hair and business suit spoke of style and efficiency.

Tipped to be the first woman President in the history of the US of A, Hillary, along with her husband and former President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea formed a pretty picture.
Almost a sensory overload of beauty if you ask me.

On the other hand, I have no doubts that Michelle Obama as the first black First Lady in the White House would hold her own. With her couture consciousness and affordable designer wear she is quite (if I may borrow the term) "cool".

I have always wondered why in the US the divorced, convicted or single people are not encouraged to run for President. Following this election closely I now know why.

You might start a torrid affair once you climb the WH walls, but till you are there you have to present to voters the picture of a perfect, cloyingly sweet family. Better even if you're wife is a stunner.

On the Republican side they had their Weapon of Mass Destruction Sarah Palin - a former beauty queen and a stunner even at her age. They needed her, badly, if they were to balance John McCain's grounded grizzly bear looks
on the poll plank.

So many months of watching these beautiful people campaigning in designer clothes, flashing dazzling smiles, waving manicured hands, I was wistful about elections back home.

Lets see what we have.

The average age of our candidates is 55 plus. Most walk with a limp and suffer from arthritis when the weather is damp or on a full moon.
Some have applied to their jail wardens to let them out on parole for campaigning and some cannot read their own posters - having dropped out of school.

It depresses me to see myopic eyes behind heavy glasses, white moustache, white dhotis and pan stained teeth. At least we have our khandaan ka chiraag Rahul baba - the saving grace with his boyish good looks.
A special mention also of Omar Abdullah and his brother-in-law Sachin Pilot - two men with easy grace and clean cut features.
At least we can boast we have the world's best political brains on our side. They are not much to look at, but over 30 years in the dark alleys of Indian politics have given them an uncanny knack of spotting the people's pulse.
But still I envy the Americans for their good looking leaders.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It doesn't matter if you're Barack or White

Michael Jackson must be on teleconference right now with his plastic surgeon cajoling him to change him back to black, now that it's fashionable to be black again.

Barack Obama has changed all that.

I say this with the supreme confidence of one in the 'know', since I've had to hear the "ujjal shyam borno" (bright wheatish skin colour) rubbish all my life.

Globalisation is a wonderful thing.
Who would have thought Shoma kakima from college street, North Calcutta would be glued to the TV as results from the US Presidential election poured in early morning.

No, she is not an economist worried about global recession. Her bailout package goes as far as the monthly debt at the local grocery store.

Neither is she one of the rabid social worker type obsessed with world politics.
She is a mother of two and a housewife. Her dark skin colour excluded her from the perks that go with being fair, as she keeps telling us.

Plum marriage alliances from NRI grooms, stacks of love notes at college, sweet adoration at home from relatives, envy of girl friends, in general all the things that women secretly live for.

When I asked her why she is so obsessed with the US elections, especially at the cost of irking her husband and in-laws for neglecting household duties, this is what she said with a strange gleam in her dark doe eyes.

"I know nothing about how voting works in America, I do not understand their local issues. But in New York lives an NRI man who my parents approached once for my marriage. He turned me down, rudely, because not only was I dark skinned, I could not even be passed off as wheatish.

If he is watching today's vote, he will know that it's all changing. I can truly feel in my dark Bengali heart what pain and atrocities the blacks must have had to undergo in their day to day struggle for equality. Obama da has changed all that."

Change. The devilish simplicity of the political campaign strategy of Barack Obama - the 44th American President and the first black to lead the nation.

May be Shoma kakima's reasoning is personal and not strictly objective or informed. But the message is sinking in slowly - the humongous attitude change in a nation where segregation has always remained a sore issue for politicians.

He is the rock star for the moment and my black face is aching from smiling so much at his win - a win for every single one of Americans who once in their life time have put up with verbal or physical abuse for their skin colour.

I had to write this post to vent my surprise at how this win has connected, in the strangest way, a dingy north Calcutta home with so many cheering millions in the US.


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