Sunday, December 15, 2019

Bigotry 101 - Mad Dogs and Demons

Do note and be warned. This is how the game is played.

The post below was originally shared by quite a few of my Facebook friends so I couldn’t resist discussing how perfectly the post set about achieving its ‘objectives’. The thought bubble and the crude red annotations on an already very crude post is my addition.

Let’s start by accepting that violence is simply unacceptable and that mob ‘justice’ is no justice at all. The leering happy Muslim faces that you would see on these clips are inevitable in a mob situation where the nastiest instincts of humanity are revealed. That’s the reason why boring words like rule of law, due process and human rights matter – they are exactly what differentiate a civilized nation from the mob.

If you still think revenge for their ‘fellow’ murdered Hindus on Sabarmati Express was the agenda of the mobs in the riots post Godhra 2002, you are severely mistaken. It was rape, murder and petty theft from brand showrooms. There was no ‘justice’ delivered in ‘the lesson taught’ to the nearest available absolutely unrelated Muslim and indeed no equal and opposite reaction. It was fulfillment of personal agendas and cashing-in of political dividends. Every act of mob violence always is (including the one above) and that is why mob violence is, by its very nature, wrong.

This picture, nonetheless, is the perfect example of how the merchants of mayhem work your mind. 

1. Tricking you into thinking of all of ‘them’ as ‘one’. They want you to sweat in terror at the ‘fact’ that your Muslim colleague or classmate is no different from the ISIS beheader you saw on ShankhNaad. Don’t you need protection from their madness? Who will you turn to [Wink wink]? Note the ‘30%’ smoothly slipped in there… as if all of Bengal’s Muslim population can be seen on this clip - Indian/Bangladeshi/who cares as long as it is a ‘violent Muslim’ who fits the narrative. “Look at what THEY are doing at 30%. Imagine them in majority… shiver me timbers!”, they squeak.

2. They also want to remind you that it is ‘these’ people who have hounded minorities in their Muslim majority homelands, quietly, surreptitiously pushing the same fake message that they DON’T BELONG HERE. Never mind the fact that the people seen here had zero involvement in the atrocities perpetrated in Muslim majority countries. Once more, it’s the same “All Muslims are the same [Read terrifying]. It’s just their NATURE” narrative. Though they’ll shout from the rooftops “Why are Indian Muslims protesting CAB?”, they’ll also whisper “You see? These people are naturally violent, ALL OF THEM. Isn’t the law that is flagrantly discriminatory against THEIR religion a masterstroke? [Wink wink]”

At this point of time, the reader may be wondering as to why speak only about the Hindu merchants of mayhem and not the others?

It’s because all of these ideas of these merchants of mayhem are that fucking unoriginal. 

Selecting bits of incendiary information, encouraging blanket hatred against the ‘other’ – that is the bread and butter of every carbon copy Islamic terror outfit (Kafirs must die on earth so that I can live a Kafir lifestyle in heaven), white supremacist (we started everything so enough of this sharing with these ungrateful inferior non-whites) and Maoists (them rich people must be executed and their wealth distributed). 

Not only is such stupidity unproductive and dangerous, it rapidly comes to grief with maximum trauma and negative benefits. If history (not the WhatsApp edition) is a long bus trip, religious fundamentalism, white supremacy, Maoism are the co-passengers from hell – too much baggage, full of ignorant opinion and filled with an uncontrollable urge to be the bus driver.

But… but… but then why don’t we hear voices from the other side criticizing their own? 

To that question, this answer is as fucking original as it gets… this being my very raw personal experience.

It was nearly the last day of my long tenure in the USA when I was called a terrorist. Right to my face. Aloud and in the middle of a crowd. By someone who couldn’t possibly have been more than 6 years old. Even as the kid’s smug white parents looked on, ‘pride’ shining in their eyes. In the heart of New York City, a surge of rage rose taller than the Empire State Building within me and almost as rapidly subsided. 

I could see in that microsecond what made the kid think that way – brown guy, reasonably dishevelled from walking around that great city for the umpteenth time, holding camera in hand and ‘scouting’ for locations to bomb. All the ticks, all the filters that the kid’s monumentally stupid, hate-filled environment had trained him to pick were fulfilled. I was, as Stephen Colbert put it, “Mus-lish” enough.

I really felt no need to explain that everything he had known about brown people was wrong. That there were a lot of brown people who were not involved in bringing down the World Trade Centre, including Muslims and non-Muslims like me. That if he talked to us, he wouldn’t find us that very different from ‘his’ people, whatever that allegiance might be. 

Most importantly, I felt (for a very brief while) how every Muslim around the world must feel when asked to take responsibility for ISIS or about why he ‘didn’t protest the atrocities’ of his ‘co-religionists’. I realized the load that someone else’s bigotry and ignorance put on my sanity. I didn’t owe any explanation to anyone and I couldn’t be responsible for what someone ‘thought’ I was, where I came from, or what my ‘intentions’ were. If I am the demon from someone’s nightmare just by existing, the fault is definitely not mine.

But… but… but my bigotry is well researched and personally experienced, the reader may claim. Why would a community be hated ‘around the world’ if there weren’t cause for it?

The answer to that, I am afraid, is once again fucking unoriginal and I must fall back on the Internet proven Godwin’s Law. Looking beyond WhatsApp screenshots for history might be critical to the argument.

There once was a time (and still is, in the pockets where Nazis are heroes) when in countries ‘around the world’, the root cause of all evil was a Jew. They were ‘everywhere’… taking over, destroying ‘us’, proliferating ‘theirs’. It took a Hitler supported by his trial-less murder of 10 million non-combatants, a World War and two atomic bombs to realize that there was a slight problem with that sweeping generalization. The problem was that the assumption was overwhelmingly and gut-wrenchingly wrong. Evil. Unacceptable.

The markers of extremist movements are all the same. 

1. We were the best before ‘they’ came in and perfect as we are, we do not need to absorb anything from anyone else (don’t you dare reveal that what we have is a wonderful composite of ALL the cultures that call our country home).

2. We had everything before everyone else (and even if we didn’t, we’ll shame our wise ancients by treating our myths as science and history, completely ignoring the invaluable philosophy embedded in them). 

3. We are the nice guys who are being taken advantage of. Haven’t we been appeasing ‘them’? ‘They’ are so lucky to be here instead of ‘there’ (hence we must pro-actively ‘unite’ to get us our historical dues).

4. It takes a Great Leader to restore a Great Nation by his sheer unquestionable genius (if you disagree like all those ‘fake’ intellectuals who have been letting us down, there’s always a neighbouring country we could send you to). Giant statues, falsified history, inappropriate appropriation of national heroes and the all-important Facebook soldiers, all vie for second position in that great mission of national upliftment.

5. It doesn’t matter if our country is going through an economic, social and moral crisis, what’s important is national pride based on hatred of the ‘other’ and putting ‘them’ in their place (because filling stomachs is not as easy as ripping them open).

6. Last and most important, ‘they’ are hardly human, not worth our thought and attention, evil reproductory robots who are hell-bent on finishing us. We tried so hard to reach across the aisle but look at what we got. We must get rid of ‘them’ for our survival.

You get the drift. The end results of all such movements, likewise, sooner rather than later rain faeces on their collectively angry faces and on much of the landscape around.

Yet the ease offered by these simplistic narratives must be acknowledged. There are terrible things in the world – poverty, hunger, want. What better than a readymade bogeyman to blame it on and a mob mission to lynch him with! It frees the individual from the pain of thinking complicated things through and though a mental slave, imagine himself to be a fighter of ‘evil’ in his inner life. He has no clue of how ugly the reality that he is fostering is.

For these are people who claim that they are all for the ‘right’ type of Muslim but even a lifelong student and doctorate of Sanskrit is unsuitable to respect as a teacher just because his name is Feroze Khan. Yes, they are those who think that candle light protests are more dangerous for the structure of the country than a terrorism under trial being appointed to the nation’s defence committee

I can only hope that they will realize in time that bringing in the slavering mad dogs from the margins into the central hall doesn’t make them any less mad, it makes them more so.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

A Lil' Bit of Everything

I do not place much stock in books on spirituality. Page after page of dense prose on how one can become one with the universe and listen to its beating heart is not really my kind of reading. 

I picked up Herman Hesse's "Siddhartha" on a whim from a bookshop in Darjeeling because I had previously read the magically dark book that is "Steppenwolf", also authored by him. From an age where Eastern spirituality was being explored by Western minds, any Hessian perspective was bound to be interesting.

A fictional contemporary of Gautama Buddha, the titular Siddhartha is a variation of that vague term often found in books on mysticism - a seeker. The book, despite a fair chunk of cryptic text devoted to 'searching', listening to 'the hum of all creation' and all those other tropes found in this story type, is applicable to more than just those seeking spiritual answers. 

Siddhartha's journey through cycles of intellectual dissatisfaction, extreme penance and complete sensual pleasure is rewarding to read not because it argues very strongly for either  meditation or for materialism. Neither does it picks sides between enlightenment and emotion. By the end of the book, it is beautiful artistic testimony to why we just might need them all.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Killer. Cute.

Life's not easy and that is not changing anytime soon. Under-equipped, overwhelmed, ill-prepared - we lurch from one incident to another in the fictitious hope that one of these days, things will settle down.

Alternatively, we have a mouse. The southern grasshopper mouse to be precise. Operational in the Sonoran Desert of North America, where daytime temperatures hover around 48 degree centigrade, this furry evolutionary experiment seems, at first, a bit like a post-lunch doodle by its creators, with teeth designed to chew grains and shaped like a substitute Teletubby.

As this National Geographic video short reveals, appearances deceive and this little creature waggles its tiny fist at anyone who dare classify it as cute. It means business and it does business, a fully operational carnivore as many a fatally venomous Arizona bark scorpions may have found to their surprise.

So the next time life seems like a trackless wasteland disproportionately at odds with the resources and talent available, remember that somewhere out there, in a terribly dry desert of North America, a grain eating fluffy ping-pong ball snacks on scorpions and howls at the moon.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

A Dark Kind of Art

"Luna mein hain no tension -trumpety music-
Chalane mein hain no tension -trumpety music-
Maintenance mein no more tension"
[Luna gives you no tension, in riding and in maintenance]

That's the one. Or something like it.

This was the first advertising jingle to find permanency in my head. A very humble two-wheeler, the 50 cc moped that was the Luna even gave its rider an option of pedalling to the next petrol station with its radical in-built cycle option. Back in its day, it wasn't without its quota of cool and the fact that my older brother, 11 years my senior, commanded one was no small matter of pride. This, I need not remind you, was in pre-liberalisation, single TV channel India.

To date, I am yet to ride the Luna except as a passenger (it was sold long before I reached riding age). I have had the unhappy and possibly unique experience of being dragged by one, knees scraping along the road, for a good 10-15 metres as a bump on the road dislodged me from the pillion seat and unlike Jack of Titanic fame, I refused to let go. I have also been sent flying by one, on a routine road crossing to catch the school bus, at a tender age (early primary school) when it was still physically feasible for a Luna to send me flying as it ran into me. The central message being that there is absolutely no reason for me to look upon it fondly but even then, that jingle... it never quite left me in the three decades since.

Advertising, at its dark core, is mass mind manipulation. It is designed to stamp an impression on impressionable minds and at its most nefarious, force us to buy things that we don't need at all. Want is created where there was none, greed where there was peace.

Be that as it may, advertising is also an outlet for storytelling which tries to tap into the moods of the time. The underlying wish to push their product notwithstanding, it is difficult not to appreciate the genuine effort put into channeling the right notes. 

The fruit drink company, Paper Boat, for example, seems to have mined that rich vein of nostalgia for those of us who remember a time when long railway journeys were a family institution, and a pocket-friendly adventure rolled into one (Read aforementioned 'Luna Days'). I wouldn't waste words on why these images work. They just do, and for that generation at which these ads are targeted, any explanation is superfluous.

I, for one, am yet to buy a Paper Boat product but I think the universe is a happier place if, after all the dust from the board-room meetings, sales targets and distribution networks has settled down, a creative managed to sneak out a story and a smile for someone who isn't even a customer.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Everyone's Favourite 2nd Favourite

By the time I was old enough to follow West Indies cricket, it had already passed its golden age. At that stage, though seriously competitive with Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Richie Richardson and Carl Hooper in their ranks, they did not seem worthy of the whispered reverence that our parents' generation treated them with. The Windies only waned further as I added to my cricket watching years. Simultaneously, via cricket writing celebrating the supreme sportsmen that had made up the West Indies cricket team in the 1970s and 80s and rivetting documentaries like Fire In Babylon, I couldn't fault the starry eyes that the name West Indies produced in the most casual of senior cricket fans. 

However the fact of *this* West Indies team being nothing compared to *those* West Indian teams hasn't stopped me from being a lifelong fan. This cricketing nation, which isn't actually a nation but a collection of separate countries united for the sport, still has way too much elan to let minor things like winning or losing come in the way of appreciation for what they are.

If individuality was the sole criteria for cricketing success, West Indies would be still be the undisputed kings. From the shabbily crabby Shivnarine Chanderpaul to the supremely elegant Brian Lara, the main attraction of watching the Windies play is their artistic interpretation of textbook techniques. The basics still adhered to - note how Lara's head stayed rock steady while batting, even as his feet distracted, dancing the bele around the best bowlers in the world - but with an effective panache that can only be classified as West Indian.

Cricket board politics and drastic inconsistency haven't helped their record in the past couple of decades but whenever snooty robot-promoting coaches are about to dismiss them as mere entertainers, they serve up a dose of their surprising brilliance. Having won the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy and the ICC World Twenty20 twice (2012, 2016), the West Indies make it clear that those who write them off, do so at their own peril. As the impotently angry Glenn McGrath of Steve Waugh's legendary 2003 side found out, on their day the Windies can chase down a unprecedented 418 in the 4th innings of a Test Match, no problem.

The West Indies bring that sparkle and joy to their game, which tells of cricket on the beach and the happiness of a life beyond the game. The reason why a quiet and polite middle class Bombay boy named Sachin Tendulkar can idolize, without contradiction, a bowler destroying force like Vivian Richards. Yes, there is the swagger on field but there is clearly a barbecue, a beer and a beaming smile behind it all. 

Former West Indies captain, Darren Sammy, once claimed that the West Indies were everyone's 2nd favourite cricket team, ranking only behind their home country's. Very few would disagree. In a game where national pride is often misdirected for ugly political purposes and aggression frequently turns into disrespectful bullying, a group of islands in the Caribbean united only by their flamboyant use of bat and ball represent the sunnier alternative.


Thursday, May 30, 2019

Recommended Reading

Many a time an acquaintance or friend looking to 'get into' reading has requested me to guide him on which book to begin with. One of the most fatal flaws in my claim to being a book-lover is that I invariably struggle to answer that question. 

It was only yesterday evening in a strolling discussion on my building's rooftop that my neighbour, an avid reader himself, had a ready answer. His choice was Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry's "The Little Prince", an original multi-layered fable (a good 50-60 years before the Paulo Coelho factory cranked up production) which would appeal to a child for its elements of adventure and to a 60 year old for its depth of philosophy. The slimness of the volume would encourage the most effort-shy of new readers to sample it. Chances are, as a first time read, they'd love it too. Simple, convenient, elegant logic. 

I could only nod in agreement and wonder why I have struggled so fruitlessly with such a simple question. Spending hours and days and years cut off from social formalities should at the very least lead to preference and expertise.

It's not that I don't have my long list of books that changed my life. In addition, I have a fair idea of which ones would be difficult for a novice reader to appreciate. It's just that I have these peculiar notions of how a book should be chosen.

At some inexpressible level, it is not only a matter of you choosing the book, it is of the book choosing you. Strolling past the best-sellers and the classics, hidden away in a dusty corner of the library, a very specific resplendent red bound set of yellowed pages is waiting to be discovered, to spring a tale of history, tragedy or relevance right into your life. The creature of recommendation wants you to go straight to the right location where the most sought-after volumes are; the fritterer of efficiency wants you to get lost along the way.

To 'get into' reading, you don't need a 100 top novels of the century checklist. What you need is ample time and a vagabond mind which allows you the luxury of answering the call of curiosity. 

Because if you are inquisitive by nature, how could you not be thrilled to bits (and torn to pieces) when faced with themes and topics spanning time and space, thoughtfully curated down into a select few pages? Because if you really want to be impacted by those words that you will spend a sizable amount of your life with, why would you trust any instinct other than your own?

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Jay Cee Bee!

Admit it. 

You just pretend to be angry at the jobless youth for watching a JCB at work but deep down, you are not really surprised. It's a freakin' JCB after all!

Big and yellow, clunky and seemingly purposeful. Every movement it makes is worthy of attention, like that friend who robot-dances to techno music at every party (actually, it's his only move). It's a childhood fantasy, a Transformer at the cusp of transformation, a roaring metal mountain of intent - a uniter unlike any other. To top it off, your role in helping it take centre-stage in your life ended at clicking a button.

The people's mandate must be respected! #JCBKiKhudai


Monday, May 27, 2019


“Is anyone up?”, I query despite knowing full well the answer would be. There is WhatsApp silence and the doors of the other rooms in the guesthouse stay locked. I am relieved. Now, no one can denounce me, yet again, for wandering off on my own ‘without even asking’. A WhatsApp group message may not sound like an ideal way to get folks up and about but knowing my company well enough - years of 12-hour days cooped up together in office cubicles help you do that - I am sure that if they are not responding to my message, they are offline in the way only sleep can cause them to be.

As it happens, we are quite far away from our air-conditioned 9-to-9 jails in Calcutta. While they may want to enjoy their vacation by sleeping in, I have other plans. It’s not like that I frequently get a chance to observe the grey of a new day spread over the compound of a forest bungalow and hear the murmur of the Kameng river in the distance. It’s early May and this is still in the plains but hints of the hills beyond ride in on the breeze. I shiver just a little as I squeeze through the half-chained gate and set out for the riverbank.

This walk to the river is already 10 hours too late. Our group of seven had just stepped out for a night walk yesterday when the gatekeeper at the guesthouse played spoilsport, calling out from behind us to return – elephants were active in the area, he said. Yeah right, we thought. At the border of Assam and Arunachal, in the town of Bhalukpong where this PWD guesthouse was located, we had crossed a crush of humanity in its commercial area, only a few hundred metres before the guesthouse. The only elephants here, we assumed, were the ones that government staff made up to keep footloose city tourists indoors. Grudgingly, we had come back inside the compound and immersed ourselves in the quiet pleasures of a quiet evening in.

But that was yesterday… today is a new day. A couple of leaps take me off the concrete certainty of the PWD babu’s holiday home. The sun still appears to be a little indecisive about getting out of bed as I wind a couple of loops down to the level of the very first channel. Boulder size pebbles, smoothened by millions of years of action, help me hop, skip and jump over the consistent but low levels of water there. Here the first bits of riverine grasslands begin, with scrub and grass closing in on the sandy walking path with occasional tweets of unnamed, unseen birds floating through the soundscape. I feel terribly happy and could sing for joy but for my utter lack of skill in that department.

Basking in this mental sunshine, as its real counterpart slowly starts highlighting the silhouettes of distant hills, I come across another shallow channel of water. It is a sort of younger brother to the one I have crossed a minute ago and in my euphoric state, I stage to Carl Lewis across it. It is then that I spot something not insignificant plopped at the geometric centre of the path beyond.

Speculation is a tremendous waste of time but I like to imagine that the Asian elephant was named Elephas maximus as a bit of inside joke. Not that the animal’s size is insignificant, quite the opposite in fact, but what could have also been the origin of its name is what I see on the trail ahead - the unmistakable gooey bowling balls pinned with bits of turf that scream maximus! Nothing else can manufacture that amount of poop.

By its fresh moist gleam, it is easy to tell that being called off our night walk yesterday was one of the kinder interventions of destiny. It seems that there are indeed elephants here and only a few hours ago, one of them has ambled along the same route I am headed down, onward to the banks of the Kameng.

The scrub around me is now alive with possibilities. Emotions of decidedly opposite natures duke it out within me – the thrill of knowing that wild elephants ignore the ruckus of nearby Bhalukpong town to come here for a quick slurp of water and fearful visions of those very same elephants tip-toeing (as wildlife books describe their elephantine style of walking to be) into my present path. For once, curiosity trumps panic as I can now clearly hear the rush of the main body of water of the Kameng ahead of me. I proceed ahead but with more than a modicum of caution.

The sun reaches the Kameng at the same time as I. In the golden reflection of its clearly long jump proof expanse, it is evident that the elephant/elephants have long retreated into the night whose darkness affords them the cover they need to make forays as “intruders” into areas which were for long theirs. Being the species responsible for why elephants are no longer welcome to wander their own homes, I take off my mud caked footwear to sit and ponder - on a suitable rock, dangling my feet into the rippling river.

Soon I realize that I am not alone. Squinting into the sun and following the curve of the river eastwards, I find a silhouette making its meandering way towards me - fellow homo sapiens like me but of the child variant. As it comes closer, it resolves into a boy, all of 10. He appears to stepping in and out of the edge of the water with a sieve in his hand, as if panning the water for gold.

I go closer to examine what he is up to. It’s silver actually. Using balls of dough as bait, he is scooping up tiny fish from the river which he tosses into a water filled dalda container.
“What are you doing?”

“Can’t you see… catching fish”, is the no-nonsense reply complemented by a severe frown.

I want to let him be, this serious boy with serious responsibilities. Yet something makes me inadvertently ask another question - even more obvious and quite non-sequitur - which I regret even as it rolls off my tongue.

“That huge pile of tatti… near the naala before the river… whose is it?”

I brace myself for yet another withering reply from his severe tongue, but it never comes. Instead I see his eyes light up, his mask of duty fall off and a smile restore the 10 year old into him. With a quiver that seems to shake up his entire being and radiate through his voice with delight, he says “Haathi!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Fundamentally Strange

If you haven’t heard Snap Judgement yet, you probably should. 

This public radio show/podcast with all manner of interesting stories being narrated in the most addictive of fashions is great company, especially on days when you have to get down to boringly necessary tasks like cleaning up your room or re-organizing your book collection. Connect that Bluetooth speaker and listen on.

A particular story, A Wives’ Tale, left an impact stronger than most, even among those choice selections. An exploration of how strange and how strong the world of fundamentalist religion is, it offers up a new set of heroes for whom even a minor act of ‘dressing up’/’dolling up’, depending on which side of the fundamentalist divide you are on, becomes a major rebellion. At the centre of it is a man and his five wives, members of a polygamist religious organization in Utah, USA and their definition of when time honoured tradition transitions into rigid control.

The story seemed remarkable to me in two ways. One is the ‘normal’ that the five wives take for granted before remarkably tearing themselves out of that comfort of familiarity and family, the only things they had known in their lives thus far, to take a very minor but for them life-altering step. The second, much more morally ambiguous, is how to look at the male protagonist of the story – as a liberator to which he can make a partial claim or as a patriarchy perpetuator who, after all, is still a polygamist in 2019 overseeing his ‘flock’ of five wives and twenty-five children.

Like any good story, it left me thinking long after the credits music had faded away.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

"Who needs intellectuals?" - Kerala Edition

Loving this post shared by a *neutral* friend on why Kerala is stupid. I am always proud to be a liberal. Then there are other times when I am even more proud to be so.

For context (which may be useful at a later time), this is about the state of Kerala in southern India resoundingly rejecting the message of religious discord spread by a certain political party by giving them a grand total of zero seats in the recently concluded Lok Sabha 2019 elections. Naturally, some *neutral* egos were bruised and rather lame attempts to make fun of a progressive, secular and intellectually aware state are in full swing.

The very first line by a *neutral* is dissing a couple of South Indian languages, which are thousands of years old with millions of native speakers each and as Indian (if not more) than Hindi. "They don't even speak Hindi" seems to be the mood. No secret then about which side of the liberal-conservative divide these *neutrals* fall. "OK leave it" they say as they graciously overlook that unforgivable 'fault'.

It's time to now look at their math skills. In their liberal nailing calculations, since total population is XYZ, naturally all of them voted... never mind the concept of voter turnout percentage and the fact that a significant number of them are ineligible to vote because they are below 18 years of age. These are 'intellectual' concepts of no importance.

Then, it gets even more brilliant as they calculate the number of votes the *neutral* party received. Since they won 64 out of the 80 seats in India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, it's a simple multiplication. Never mind the 'intellectual' concept that even within each constituency, not every vote goes to a winning candidate. Besides, the concept of an individual opinion is so anti-India and scary. How dare anyone not vote for their *neutrality*?

They seal their bulletproof argument with the case of 'these intellectuals' electing a candidate, a lunkhead of the highest order in his own right, who had lost to a *star* candidate of the *neutral* party in the second seat he was contesting. This *star* who first lied about being a Yale graduate, later promoted herself to an undergraduate degree and then finally revealed that she had studied only till grade 12, (incredible but true) served as Education Minister of the world's largest democracy, a period which she spent angrily questioning IITs and JNU, India's most premier educational institutions, for their lack of standards. Obviously, her victory is clearly indicative of 'actual' intellectuals somehow.

Also, do note in the midst of their *strong* arguments, how they sneak in a convenient half-truth about Kerala having the highest crime rate in India. Sure, Kerala has recently seen a spurt of political violence due to the rise of a certain *neutral* party which will later milk it for electoral purposes through their divisive but tremendously successful *majority is in danger* strategy. But on the list of violent crimes per capita for states, Kerala - with its high Human Development Index - has still consistently ranked near the bottom out of the 30 states in India while guess which state always hovers nears the top of that list? Hint: It's that state that the *neutral* party is so proud of winning and wants to set as a model in the face of happy, wise Kerala. Truth is optional, as it always is for any side terrified of logical opinions.

All I can say is: Kerala, stay your way. If these arguments against you are any proof, we sure need your intellectuals. As far sensible people in both Uttar Pradesh and Kerala and the rest of India know, whatever this joke of a diss was trying to be, it is not exactly a strong case for the *neutral* kind of 'literacy'.

*---* = Self-proclaimed

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Not My Fault

Of late, the fans of a certain political ideology have been insisting that my vote will be ‘wasted’ kyunki “Aayega toh…” Something compels them to come looking for me and post on my FB wall, some talking to me for the first time almost 11 years after college, specifically to tell me that “YOU will lose, OUR guy will win”. Silent Likes on his kinda-funny-but-still-out-of-the-blue aggression indicate that a few more share his opinion. They are the quiet ones, ashamed of expressing their inner feelings but put 3 of them together and they graduate directly to mob frenzy. They want to tell me, shout me down, that I, the sickular, pseudo-liberal, West Bangladeshi will lose and their nation (because obviously secularism = foreign concept imposed on Indians, so I can’t be one) powered by their warped version of religion, long suppressed, shall reduce me to ashes. Also, hate to inform them that I am not running for any office.

I laugh at these children of summer and their naivete. They do not realize that elections work a little differently from Indian Idol. The vote is not always about the most razzle-dazzle and membership on a ‘winning’ team. Sometimes it is a judgement for promises not fulfilled and an indictment for situations unravelling in an atmosphere of unprecedented hatred. Individual opinion scares them, even their own. An independent National Green Tribunal, Reserve Bank of India, Supreme Court, Election Commission etc? Why on earth would any ‘patriot’ need such separate (read inefficient) and free-thinking (read deeply dangerous) power centres? They like to be guided, goose-stepping in alignment with their identified superhero even if for the mildest unbiased eye, he’s just another credit-stealing, buck-passing, self-promoting bag of political hot air. It’s impossible for them to process that those in power can be questioned and should be. Because they are blindly in love with a very tattered and deeply compromised image, they assume that power must be obeyed and worshipped. Since they cannot see any faults in their candidate, others MUST accept His flawlessness too.

I fear I might have already triggered a few of them into commenting below but here are a few other key identifying criteria. JNU students and NDTV are their ‘core’ national issues, not poverty and inequality. The massive environmental crisis that looms ahead due to water, land and air being compromised for business ‘utility’ is acceptable in the race for superpower-dom, except for a few anti-nationals who worry about children being reduced to wearing facemasks to school, their survival dependent on Kent RO water. While they claim to dream of an undivided India, they can’t even bear to look at the people of a particular religion without whispering ISIS and running about, dizzy with panic. Such brotherly feelings they foster, for a massive group of people who first moved to India in 632 AD and subsequently chose India over Pakistan as their home in 1947, never mind those that moved across. Talking about patriarchy and caste crime is a tremendously touchy issue with them. You see, we never had those problems in our golden perfect period until them ‘foreigners’ ruined it. These are just anti-majority foreign constructs being forced down Indian throats. Someone in WhatsApp authority told them so… hence this must be true.

It is these self-proclaimed "progressive minded patriots" who are OK with Sadhvi Pragya and Yogi Adityanath as candidates but would have pooped their pants if a single Opposition candidate used "Allahu Akbar" in their campaigning. "Jai Shri Ram" nasties are however OK? They want uniform civil code but beef - oh, that's a no-no? They are OK with a PM who lies through his teeth in public speeches and promotional interviews (Ganesh-was-plastic-surgery, black-money-no-digitization-no-wait-tax-payer-base-no-no-no-something-else-tomorrow, radar, digicam, internet, DU topper) and walks around claiming to be non-corrupt while canoodling with the shadiest of industrialists. The present government has diluted the Right to Information Act (chillingly, once the petitioner is dead, the RTI automatically closes), introduced the perfect route to industrial scale political corruption through the anonymous political bonds scheme and sanitized its past sins by exempting from scrutiny, all the funds received from abroad going back to 1976. Still, the faithful insist that the Special One is pure as snow.

Even if someone does win on May 23rd, do remember that Rajiv Gandhi won 400+ after the horrific massacre of Sikhs in 1984. Democracy has its ups and downs. The people’s choice is not always the right one. But irrespective of how perfect you think your candidate is (Harking back to a time when idiots, like a particular grade of supporters active today, had said Indira = India, India = Indira), democracy has its own schemes to make the arrogant fall, sooner rather than later. Most of the established parties have already been through that cycle. Some recent regional entrants, in this very election, will feel the same or in the 2021 Assembly polls. I will be watching and smiling.

Oh and sorry, I will always make my opinion heard. I have cast my vote and will continue to, circumstances permitting. I think it matters. I think I matter. It’s not exactly my fault if your bull-shit sensor is so deeply dysfunctional and your independent opinion had gone AWOL.