Vantage point

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti Blog

Farmer suicides in Vidarbha in particular and all over the country in general is a very serious problem. The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti is spearheading the movement to create awareness about the problem and look for and obtain relief from it. The Samiti has now also set up a blog called Andolan. Do visit it.

A few good articles/posts about the Vidarbha issue in my opinion - Nitin Pai, Ila Patnaik, Sonia Faleiro

P.S - In case you came here googling for the Samiti and looking for its contact details, they are -
PH. 2282447/457 MOBILE-9422108846.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Make It Personal

In 2001 our parliament was attacked. A few gunmen tried to enter it and take some leaders hostage. The attack, in that sense was a failure because all the terrorists were gunned down before they could come near any MP or Minister.

And yet it pissed off our government enough to amass troops on the border for several months. Our politicians were angry enough to go to the brink of war. Was it because our countrymen were that pissed off? Or was it because this time it was personal for our leaders?

As I wrote yesterday, politicians in India have no electoral benefit to be gained out of being proactive in fighting terrorism. No one has lost an election because of terrorism, and no one most likely will in the near future. So was the escalation in 2001-02 a result of the attack being personal? Imagine what the reaction would have been if the attack had succeeded. If they had bumped off a few MPs and taken some Ministers hostage. For all we know, the government would have taken it personally enough to actually go to war.

As long as we remain apathetic to our own safety, I think only such "personal" attacks on politicians by terrorists can bring about any action even remotely resembling the one taken by Israel and America. If terrorists start killing politicians on a regular basis, like the Khalistani terrorists did. If politicians start fearing that the next target may not just be some commuters in a train, but they themselves. A terror attack on 10, Janpath or Racecourse Road... and a vastly successful one at that, is the only thing that will make India a "hard" state. Look how Punjab was taken care of efficiently.

Let me cite a slightly different example. The Mumbai-Pune highway (NH4) was the deadliest stretch in the country for several decades. There were at least a couple of accidents daily. If I recall correctly, there were some 2000 deaths on the highway annually. But these deaths were not enough for the people to get pissed off by. No politician saw the need to make it a poll issue.

Then Bindumadhav, the son of Bal Thackeray died in a road accident on the highway. And shortly, the Shivsena-led government put a safe Mumbai-Pune expressway on their agenda. It was completed in good time by Indian standards. Can anyone deny the personal element in the Sena's decision to construct an expressway? There sure as hell wasn't any electoral gain from it.

So as sadistic and pessimistic as it sounds, one can only hope that terrorism makes a strike on politicians that makes them go, "This time, it's personal!".

Friday, July 28, 2006

Our Own Threshold

Several Indian bloggers have written approvingly about Israel's attacks on Lebanon. Many of them wonder why India does not do something similar. Why is our reaction to terrorist attacks and hijackings so timid that even our most right-wing government ever felt compelled to escort terrorists to safety?

I feel there is a bigger problem at hand that is being ignored. Before we pleasure ourselves with fantasies of inflicting punishment on Masood Azhar and Hafiz Sayed, we need to ask why the termites within are being ignored. No one seems to be asking how dare the Kerala assembly pass a resolution to release Madani, a man accused of a terror attack, just for political benefits? No one seems to be asking how Ram Vilas Paswan, a man who actually ran a campaign saying "Only a Muslim should be the Bihar CM" never got the criticism and even the abuse he deserved? Can you imagine what the reaction would be if a politician said "Only a Hindu should be a CM of a state?". Why is Mulayam Singh Yadav able to get away with giving a clean chit to the very organisation against which his own police departments have gathered evidence?

How can Jaswant Singh tell us with a straight face that he has known for over a decade that a man in the PMO was leaking our secrets to other nations, but never felt like telling anyone that because "he had left the PMO, the country and I didn't want to dig old graves"? Sitting on such a piece of information until you want to make money through books is as treasonous as being a mole.

All around us, politicians are saying or doing things that undermine our national security. And yet, they are winning elections, aren't they? They are coming to power, and ruling our country. And why do politicians in Israel or USA react with such belligerence when they are attacked? Is it because they are super macho men with oodles of self respect while our politicians are just sissies?

Well, that is the right answer if you just want to rant to your friends, or converse over dinner. Yes, blame the khaki clad corrupt bozos, and rock yourself to sleep wishing we had "bold" leaders like Israel does.

But the actual right answer is that politicians all over the world are just driven by one thing - getting elected. The Americans and Israelis go on an attack because they know that their electorates care enough about security and safety to vote out someone they think compromises on those things. It's not that their politicians are made of sterner stuff. Their public has a low threshold for getting blown to bits on their way to work.

In India, we are just not like that. We really aren't. And let us be honest about it. We don't care enough about national security to vote on its basis. We aren't bothered by the prospects of death too much. I don't know what the reasons for it are. Maybe because even if the blasts in Mumbai killed 200 people in 11 minutes, we know that the same number dies in accidents on local train tracks every couple of months. Maybe because most Indians are busy worrying about where their next meal is coming from. Maybe because there is still some complacency within all of us that makes us think that the problem is not big enough to trheaten our own security. Whatever the reason, we just don't care enough. Which election has ever been fought with security as an agenda? How many people will really vote on its basis?

The key question is, why should our politicians do anything? Will they lose elections if terrorism keeps growing? Has terrorism become an issue big enough to swing elections? No it hasn’t. So they do not have an incentive to take any proactive steps, do they?

They know that losing Kashmir will mean a lost elections. So they do whatever is needed to retain Kashmir. But beyond the bare minimum effort needed to retain it, there is no marginal benefit for the politicians, electorally, to do anything more.

Considering how high our threshold for our throats being cut by terrorists on our own country's hijacked plane is, it is actually a miracle that politicians are doing even the miniscule amount they are doing to secure our lives.

The day our threshold lowers enough for us to give votes on the basis of it, you will see politicians flexing their muscles. You will see Entebbe style operations being ordered. You will see our own version of 'Wrath of God'. But until that day, make your peace with the fact that on an average, the most daring thing an Indian politician will ever do will be introducing newer reservations and/or boldly take the fiscal deficit where no FM has ever taken it before.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Jessica McClure - America's 'Prince'

Reader Vivek Gupta confirms that there was indeed a media circus around a trapped child in the US. ALmost twenty years ago, an eighteen month old baby Jessica McClure fell down an 8-inch-wide pipe and was rescued after 58 hours.

Apparently the media still haven't gotten over her. She got married recently, and the wedding was covered by news channels.

So Prince's parents should book a large enough hall for his wedding in 2025.

Globs of Mud

Today the sun came out in Pune for the first time in the last 10 days that I have been here. And it brought with it pleasant breeze. The breeze in Pune is so craftily calibrated. It flows at just the right intensity, and changes directions with an almost telepathic precision. This breeze is all the more heavenly in the area right behind my house, which has about 200 acres(I think) of open land surrounded by a semi-circle of hills.

As I stand at the edge of the area, I realise how I grew up in probably the best possible locality in urban India. Growing up, we would read detective novels and children's stories. We actually lived in a landscape that had all the necessary requirements for it. I remember the days when we would climb up the hill at one edge of the semi-circle, and walk along the top to the other edge. On top of the middle hill was an abandoned graveyard. There were no tombstones, but the rectangular patches made it very clear what it was. And as if taking a cue from books, the wind in its vicinity would make a howling sound. The tall grass which grew there was a pale yellow most of the time.

Beyond a short stone wall was a lot of vegetation, and the different types of colourful bugs and birds we saw there would put any biology picture book in the library to shame. Often we would venture into the "jungle", and reach the top edge of the hills, from where we could see the Pashan lake a short distance away.

There was a village-like settlement in the area. There was even a very wide and deep well where some enterprising folks would come for immersing the ganesh statues after the festival. For a few months during the monsoons, a couple of small ponds would form in some portions. Later these depressions were filled up by the locals since they felt the ponds were a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Walking around the entire area held a different thrill at different times. We would play so many games pretending to be soldiers, detectives, explorers, superheroes. During rainy season, the wet black soil would stick to the soles of our shoes and I remember how we would stop occasionally to kick the air, and send globs of the soil flying far away. The one whose glob flew the farthest won.

In the drier seasons, the area got converted into a cricketing paradise. Imagine that huge stretch of land, with many potential "cricket grounds". Different groups of children would go and occupy different stretches and declare that as their "home ground" for the tennis ball cricket. Me and my friends spent almost a week preparing the "pitch" for our ground, and we would have practice matches to prepare for the matches on weekends. The most admired were the "grounds" which had a strategically placed tree which could serve as the "pavillion" where the remaining batting side could sit, keep score, and yell encouragements.

During the diwali vacations or summer vacations, we would have tournaments, or even "test matches". Only 1 test match ever went into the second day. Needless to say, no kid from the neighbourhood at that time ever made it to the Maharashtra Ranji team. :-P

But we took the tournaments and test matches very seriously. We would wake up at the crack of dawn, and go jogging either to the farthest hill, or then to Chandni Chowk (The Chandni Chowk in Pune is SO different from its namesake in Delhi, that I find it hilarious that both places have the same name. Seriously, only someone who has been to both the Chandni Chowks will understand how even "chalk and cheese" is too weak a metaphor for them.)

The wide open area, which by the way was known as Mhatobanagar, was separated from the "developed" area by just a wall. The transformation of suburbia into the countryside was very abrupt. By crossing the wall, we would retreat into an almost fantasy world. As we grew up, we started spending lesser and lesser time in the fantasy world, until a point came when all our leisure time was spent only in suburbia. In restaurants, coffee shops, cinema halls, or street corners. In fact during the fag end of our engineering course, we would sit at the base of the hill just on the boundary, and talk about whatever was happening in our lives. Very rarely did we cross over into the land of our childhood.

Today the area is almost identical to the way we left it a decade back. Though real estate prices in my neighbourhood have crossed 3000 rupees per sq ft, Mhatobanagar remains a lush green landscape, owing to the fact that it is not owned by the Municipal Corporation, but by the defence stablishment. But I wonder how long the defence folks will be able to resist the lucre of the crores of rupees they could get for turning the land over to a developer.

Today I took a walk in the area, covered in aggressively lush monsoon greenery. I still see the trees which served as our pavillions. I see the thick green foliage over some of our erstwhile "grounds". I walk over the pitch where I scored a match-winning 35-not-out, my personal best score. I see the old well around which we constructed some very elaborate pretend scenarios and games. It's all there. All that is missing is my friends, and my childhood.

But I do see some kids playing near me and kicking the air making globs of wet mud fly. The kid who kicks it the farthest celebrates with a Sreesanth-ish jig. And for a moment I am spirited back to the best possible childhood.

Seekh Kebabs and Bhindi

I love seekh kebabs. I also love bhindi. I can eat and eat and eat when either of the items is on the table. One of the best meals I have had featured both!

Both the items are very different, and nothing at all like each other. Seekh kebabs have a juicy mojo in them that spreads itself over your tongue and carries out a shock-and-awe attack on all the taste buds in the vicinity. Every time you chew the morsel, the attack is renewed until the juice runs out, descends below the gullet, and the nest bite is ready to resume. Bhindi has a crunchier and understated appeal. It is more like a targeted attack, with only a few select tastebuds getting any preferential treatment, but that itself is enough to invoke images of paradise.

The clumsy prose above basically meant to convey that i love seekh kebabs and bhindi in a very different way.

I love Mumbai and Pune in a similarly different way. It is surprising how two cities situated just 3 hours apart can be so different. And yet both be delectable in their own ways.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Reality News

Reality TV has well and truly arrived in India. No one could make a Survivor here. Indian Idol was successful for only 1 season. And our answer to The Apprentice is boring.

Filling in the gap are news channels. Every few days they manage to uncover a real life story which will rival any soap opera script, and cover it for 5 days.

First it was Matuknath and Julie, a May-December couple from Patna mouthing age-old cliches about 'pyaar'. This story caught the fancy of viewers so much that today NDTV India actually had an hour long panel discussion about the affair, with usual suspects like Mohini Giri and Mahesh Bhatt weighing in.

Since the last 2 days, the entire country has been following the progress of 5-year-old Prince who fell down a 60-feet hole in Kurukshetra. Constant updates were given about his condition and the rescue efforts. The entire nation, including the Prime Minister, was praying for his rescue. They even managed to get a camera down there to monitor the child's condition. By the way, I get the distinct impression that there has been a precedent(s) for such an incident in the US media. Does anyone remember the specific case?

As news channels become increasingly adept at sniffing out sensational stories which tug at different emotions, soap opera writers will find it difficult to match up to those standards. Many middle aged women I know are now spending more time watching news channels than Ekta Kapoor's soap operas. And with good reason.

As the old cliche goes, truth is stranger than fiction.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Fulfilling Needs

Indian cricket has always had an abundance of batting talent and spin bowlers. Ask anyone what Indian cricket really needs and they will say - fast bowlers and all-rounders.

To help us find fast bowlers, we have the MRF Pace Foundation.

And to find all-rounders?

We have the All-Rounder-Making-Machine who also goes by the name Kiran More. First he made Sourav Ganguly an all-rounder. And recently he made Dinesh Mongia an all-rounder. So if you are an aspiring cricketer who would like to become an all-rounder, get in touch with Kiran More. Of course, it also helps if you are from the same State Association which is calling the shots in the BCCI.

On a more serious note...

.. about the LeT-IAF story. I would really hate being a newly recruited Muslim in the Indian AIr Force right now. The Times group breaking the story in such a half-baked way is a prime example of irresponsible journalism.

And I wonder how much of an "expose" it was. It was clearly a plant. It is highly likely that the BJP leaked the letter to Times. Notice how prompt they were in summoning a press conference. And even the timing of the leak was interesting. The letter was sent in November last year. It has been leaked now, at a time when people are feeling very insecure and paranoid because of the blasts.

A Sperm Joke

Q - What is the most popular sperm sample in a sperm bank called?

A - Top Seed.

Copyright 2006 Gaurav Sabnis. All rights reserved, :-P

Mystery of the Crashing MiGs - Solved!

The most shocking news I heard yesterday - The Times Group actually did an expose..... investigative journalism and all!

The second most shocking news is that Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives might have infiltrated the Indian Air Force.

This explains why the government is doing nothing about the crashing MiGs. They are just playing the odds, don't you see? They hope that sooner or later the Lashkar moles will get eliminated in the crashes.


Thursday, July 20, 2006


The rains in Pune are like a well-heeled, domesticated and house-trained pet. The showers are never too intense, never too prolonged, and more often than not they leave you feeling refreshed.

The rains in Bombay are like a wild, untamed and frustrated beast. They mow down anything in their sights and leave you feeling helpless.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Resilient Bombay: The epitome of self-denial and subservience

This is a post by Tony Xavier, who will be writing occasional guest pieces for Vantage Point

Disclaimer: There might be nothing wrong it might just be me.

My experience of Bombay up until the February of this year has been intermittent and privileged, the former because of the duration of my visits and the latter because I did not need to transact with the city like an ordinary or rather like the superhuman citizen of this selfish city. I did not need to transact like a Mumbaikar because I was either luxuriating in the plush comforts of the residential training center of my erstwhile employers or I was staying with my friend at his Carter Road residence (a one room kitchen with my friends room being the kitchen converted into a bedroom) and did not need to travel at all. I liked the city for the two things, Toto's and freedom. But I realize that the freedom is illusory or rather experienced by a very small minority, either the visitors or the people who can afford live in their islands within this island city.

There is a give and take relationship between every metropolis and its residents, Bombay just takes and I have had the opportunity of living in all of India's metropolises and Bangalore. There is a tacit understanding and acceptance of the fact that the city is the boss. You have to be subjugated to it. It almost borders on slavery and that too no ordinary one. I call the people here superhuman because of the immunity they have developed to the hardships they are put to. Commuting daily to work is an ordeal that is an affront to human dignity. While traveling by the local in peak hours, (that is when people need to travel) they are no less than animals that are being packed and shipped. New entrants will find it abhorrent and their faces would more than give away their feeling of impotent anger. Yet slowly but surely they will push shove and jostle and find some ground beneath their feet and something to clutch on to. Millions of people who live in this city have no other choice but to fight and survive this city and live, just like the gladiators of Rome. Those who survive, live. Those who succeed to get a ticket into their own islands are glorified. It wouldn't need any explanation that while commuting is the most intensely inhuman part and there are other aspects like the roof above your head, which are no less exacting.

All this is life in normalcy. There will be seasonal rains and bombs to make things more difficult for most and may be end things for some. What is most exasperatingly ludicrous is the celebration of the Spirit of Mumbai and its ability to bounce back from the rains the bomb blasts and every thing that is thrown at them. How long will the media and the islanders celebrate this? There will more rains, more chaos, more bombs and more deaths and each and every day after people will turn up at work and their spirit will be hailed.

This is not resilience but a lack of self-respect coupled with a lack of voice. As long as people put up with shit, they will get shit and their ability to take insurmountable heaps of it will be celebrated. I don't see industry making any loud noises at least the way Premji did in Bangalore. They did it in Bangalore because business was getting affected due to the lack of infrastructure and maybe also because they could afford to move out. In Bombay business will not get affected, people will report to work through sweat, nausea and rain.

The day people bring the machine to a halt they will get the respect that is due to them. It is not something that we Indians have no history of, if under Gandhi we could use non-cooperation as a tool to get our rights and dignity from the British we can as well use it against our current rulers. All that needs to be done is for all the people of this city to decide that they will not go to work till they are provided with means to transact with this city, means that are human. Only then will the city come to a halt, the cash registers stop ringing and the common man's voice be heard.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Indian Government Banning Blogspot?

Over the last couple of days I got several emails from my readers saying that my blog appeared to be inaccessible. First I thought it must be a technical glitch. But then I got mails from Neha and Mridula wondering whether this was the handiwork of our liberal government.

Neha is following this issue closely on her blog. Apparently inquiries made at call centers of at least 2 ISPs have revealed that the Ministry of Communications has sent some sort of a directive.

This is all very bizarre. If the government has indeed blocked blogspot, do they realise they are trampling on all sorts of freedoms? Do they realise that they are following in Pakistan's footsteps? And do they realise that the timing, especially when blogs like mumbaihelp are getting worldwide recognition for having played a helpful and constructive role is all the more churlish?

First the Draconian broadcasting bill. And now this.

Forgive me if this sounds cliched, but are we living in Kafka's nightmares?

P.S. - Bizarrely enough, it is possible to make posts. Not for long though, I am sure.

A Grain of Truth

The word "pseudo-secularism" is often thrown around by saffronites. Most of the time, it is a mindless pejorative. It pins some sort of a malicious intent even on neutral commentators, and serves as just a pointless personal attack. And usually when such an attack comes, the debate degenerates into mud-slinging.

However there is an element of truth in at least the observations. A lot of neutral commentators in the press and otherwise may not be part of some grand plan to lay all the blame at the door of the saffronites. But we do tend to be a lot harsher on the saffronites.

I am not saying that the saffronites don't deserve blame. They do. They are absolute scum. But we do not see the non-saffron fundamentalists getting the same amount of flak from the english media or much of the english-speaking population.

Take Mulayam for instance. The first ever Hindu-Muslim riots in Lucknow during Bush's visits were completely engineered by him. That the riots did not spread is a credit to the people of Lucknow. But if Modi deserves flak for standing by as mobs go inflicting terror on innocent people, Mulayam does too. And still, how many editorials or op-eds did you see taking Mulayam apart for the Lucknow riots? How many bloggers wrote about him?

Why go to Lucknow? Let's stay within the state of Maharashtra. Look at what happened at Bhiwandi. The whole riot flared up without any involvement from Shiv Sena or any other saffronites. The local muslims were incensed that a police station was being built close to their cemetary. They had a scuffle with the police. The police lathi-charged and opened fire on the mob. Two people died. Next day, 2 policemen were lynched and burnt by a mob as they were returning home.

And yet, how many editorials were written? How many op-eds were written? Who paid tribute to the cops? I know I didn't. I ran a google blogsearch for "bhiwandi". I found only 3 bloggers who had written about the incident in detail. All three were out-and-out right-wingers. No supposedly liberal, secular blogger (and I count myself in that category) had written about it.

So my question to all of us enlightened people is, why do we seem to need involvement of the saffron monster to make us react with maximum outrage? Why don't we blast non-saffron instances of fundamentalism with equal fervour?

If we don't blast Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Bhiwandi mobs, or the Kerala assembly which passed a resolution for releasing Abdul Nasser Madani, then we leave a vacuum for the right-wingers to do so. And they will do so obviously, but with a rightist tilt. Then we leave the stage open for "esteemed" gentlemen like Francois Gautier, Rajeev Srinivasan, etc to indulge in their own brand of rabble-rousing.

The charges of pseudo-secularism are almost always malicious, exaggerated, insulting, and hot-headed. But there is a grain of truth in them, and there is a need for introspection.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Most Freakish Coincidence Ever

Was watching television yesterday, and switched to Star WOrld. Cheers came on. The episode featured Coach's daughter visiting the bar, introducing her obnoxious fiance etc. It was not a great episode to be frank. Switched channels around, then shut the TV off and returned to reading Neil Gaiman's 'American Gods'.

Five pages later, I gave a start, and broke out into goose pimples at the coincidence. Shadow, the protagonist of the book, is watching TV, and Cheers comes on. And the episode is the same one I watched a while back. The one with Coach's daughter.

Freakish. In fact double freakish, if you know the sort of book American Gods is.

Worse Than Septic Tank Scum

India has more than it's share of horrible politicians.

But I don't think that ANYONE, even the communists, can be as bad as Mulayam Singh Yadav. What he has been up to over the last year or so is nothing short of treason. Compared to him, the likes of Modi, Thackeray, Advani, Arjun Singh, Bhujbal, R R Patil, all seem like harmless characters from Disneyland.

There is consensus amongst commentators that he will be voted out of power, and Mayawati will become CM again. I certainly hope so. Having spent a little time in UP under the CM-ship of both Mayawati and Yadav, I can say that the former's administration was many times more bearable. She might be conniving, scheming, shrill, manipulative, dishonest, and use the 'social justice' cry for her own benefit. But give me Mayawati over Mulayam any day.

Restarting student elections, going easy on terrorists, pardoning ganglords, managing to stoke an unprecedented Hindu-Muslim riot in Lucknow (that too over George Bush!), and now his sticking up for confirmed terrorists.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Get Over It!

I have lost count of the number of times people have referred to the Reader's Digest survey in the past two days, asking "So who's the rudest now?".

People, get over it! It was a stupid, flawed survey based on some highly questionable parameters decided by some clueless bozo who thinks holding doors open is a sign of niceness. Up theirs, I say. Why dignify such a survey by referring to it, time and again, especially when admiring what the people of Mumbai have displayed over the last couple of days? Mentioning the RD survey in the same breath, even if to rebut it, as the exemplary display by Mumbaikars in times of crises, is extremely insulting to the latter. We don't need RD's validation to know what we are.

Who still reads RD anyway? Didn't the 80s get over 17 years back?

A Farewell Letter To Mumbai

Dear Mumbai

I don't think anyone can fall in love at first sight with you. I didn't. During the dozen or so short trips I made to you while growing up in Pune, my nose was always crinkled and I kept finding reasons to not like you, far less love you. When I got posted here in 2004 by IBM, I was happy only because you are just 4 hours away from Pune. I was expecting to be revolted by the stench, the sweat, the crowds, the problems with finding housing, the rain, everything.

And you gave me a lot of hard time during my initial days too. But our relationship turned out like the boy-girl relationship in several Bambaiyya masala flicks. We started out hating each other, giving each other a tough time. But somewhere down the line, maybe during a song I don't remember, I fell in love with you. I found myself realising what I had thought of as just some media-created cliche. I stumbled upon the heart of Mumbai. And the heart is vibrant, embracing, caring, cheerful, efficient, and yet special enough to defy all adjectives.

My two years here coincided with 3 crises. Two were city-wide crises and 1 was a personal crisis. During all of them, I saw how the city reaches out to its children. The precise reason why Mumbai is so crowded is that it accomodates everyone. No matter how crowded the place, someone will "adjust" to give you a leg to stand on. Mumbai for me is the perfect example of how "selfishness" is not a bad word. That selfishness need not necessary translate into apathy for others. Mumbaikars reaching out to everyone is very much a selfish mechanism. Because it is an implicit contract that you look out for others and others look out for you. "When you're good to Mumbai, Mumbai's good to you", if I may alter the lyrics to a song from Chicago. It is not something imposed from top downwards, by a government eddict. It has evolved naturally, an example of spontaneous order. Knowing that the city will be thrown into crises, one after the other, and no one is going to come and help you.

26/7/05 and 11/7/06 brought out responses from people that were merely an amplified version of what we Mumbaikars see everyday. The hands that are all around us, supporting us, even as our hand is supporting someone else, like some sort of a complex latticed organic molecule.

You're a sneaky seductress, Mumbai. And like millions of others, you've seduced me. And today as I prepare to leave this city, I know that this is not the end of our story. I will return some day. I will go through it all once again. Looking for a half decent apartment, figuring out the most efficient public transport combination, knowing which roads are less crowded at what times, and where to buy what. Many things will have changed. But your essence will still be the same. And that is what I will return to.

Farewell, Mumbai. You've occupied a special place in my heart that I didn't even know existed.


Blasts and Sena

Not writing this to defend the Sena or anything, but to set the record straight on a widely held misconception. A lot of people I know, well informed people at that, seem to be under the impression that there were riots after the March 1993 blasts. And that the Sena instigated them.

Not true. Factually incorrect.

There were riots in Bombay in December 92 and January 93, the latter instigated by the Sena. But there were no riots after the March blasts.

There have been several terrorist attacks in Mumbai since. The bombs on buses, the Mulund local blasts, the Gateway-Jhaveri Bazaar blasts. On not a single occasion has the Shivsena started riots after the blasts. Yes, there have been bandhs, but no riots.

While it is understandable to be concerned that the Sena might over-react, I think it is being harped upon too much. And so far the Sena has shown restraint. Just lambasted the government. And many shivsainiks were involved in the rescue operations.

About Terrorism

Reproduced here are some comments I made on Amit's post at Guardian Blogs.

In India, this terrorism is different than UK or USA. Terrorists here are helped by local Muslims not influenced by some catchy videos or propoganda, but driven by a desire for revenge. Most of the times, it has been seen that this revenge is of a personal nature. Several accused have lost someone in their family to riots, or have been personally insulted. I am not trying to justify their actions, but merely trying to point out the difference. These sort of guys are, however just the foot-soldiers. The masterminds are sitting in Pakistan, and are at the most placed under house-arrest. Even the key plotters are Pakistanis who cross over into India.

To minimise vindictive minds from being lured by the terrorists, what we need is firm and decisive action against any rampaging mob. Whether it is a Sena mob which goes on rampage detsroying buses, a mob of Muslims which go on a rampage to protest Bush's visit, a VHP mob which goes on a rampage killing muslims, a Jamaat mob on a rampage to protest Danish cartoons..... all such mobs need to be punished and made an example of. Regardless of their faith. An example needs to be made of them. A message needs to be sent loud and clear that if you murder innocents, you will pay. If you destroy property belonging to innocents, you will pay. If you force people to shut their shops because you are upset, you will pay.

A just and fair state.... just to both hindus and muslims, and other faiths, is what will minimise the spread of the terror network.

The problem right now is, that mobs or culprits are spared not on the basis of their religion, but on the basis of their political connections or utility. A Mulayam lets mobs go not because they are Muslims, but because it serves his interests. A Modi lets mobs go not because they are Hindu but because they serve his interests.

But the victims don't view it in that nuanced a way. They see that they have been targetted because they are of that faith. And they see their "enemies" are let off scot free. So Hindus feel the government appeases the muslims, while muslims feel the government is supporting the hindus. And recriminations follow.

Yes, the terror threat posed by Al Qaida brand of terror is very real and needs to be dealt with. But in India, the never ending game of revenge-ping-pong provides the fodder for these demons of terrorism.

If an example is made of mobs who get away with murder in the name of religion, terrorism will find it a lot harder to gain foothold in India.


A huge cesspool of terror exists in Pakistan. It gives rise to elements like Al Qaida. The state which actually helped such terrorists actively was pakistan. And for ages, the West did not care. The West still does not care. They feel just leaning on Musharraf is enough. Even if we assume Musharraf has suddenly been transplanted with the heart of a dove, how can the West ignore the fact that the Pakistan state for several years, was supporting and in fact nurturing Islamic terrorists? That due to this, policemen, armymen, and officials at various levels would still be sympathetic to the cause. That a more thorough operation is needed to completely exterminate the terror network right inside Pakistan. Not inside "evil" afghanistan or "evil" Iran or "evil" Iraq. But inside "buddy" Pakistan.

Terrorists like Dawood Ibrahim, Masood Azhar, syed Salahuddin are living in pakistan. Not hiding in. Living in. And yet the Americans do not feel even the slightest bit inclined to arm-twist the Pakistanis into handing them over to India. And of course, if India raises tempo to force Pakistan's hand, the bogey of nuclear war is raised, and attention is diverted.

Anyway, expecting the Pakistanis to hand them over is naive. Even a supposedly progressive and friendly Western nation like Portugal was reluctant to hand over to India Abu Salem, a terrorist involved in the 1993 bomb blasts which killed 260 people. Why? Because Portugal wanted an assurance that he would not be given the death penalty. WTF?? He is an Indian, and he killed 260 Indians. Let India decide what to do with him. Yet Portugal held on to him for years. I wonder if Portugal would do the same for perpetrators of 9/11 or 7/7.

Can you imagine the dust which would be kicked up if Portugal held on to someone who killed hundreds in USA or UK? The world would spit at them. But if it is Indian lives being lost, no one else seems to give a damn.

If Portugal can be so blind and get away with it without any international condemn, expecting Pakistan to give up the terrorists is like expecting pigs to be airborne.


Fact remains, that one man's terrorist is another man's hero. Who is to say who is right?

Of all the cliches I have heard in my life, this one probably irritates me the most. A terrorist is a man who knowingly kills innocent people. Innocent, unsuspecting people going about their lives peacefully.Such a man can not be thought of as a hero in any civilised society. Which is why even in Pakistan, they try their best to pretend that the attacks had nothing to do with them. They claim that the terror attacks have been carried out by someone else. In Pakistan, they consider soldiers who fought in wars as heroes. They think of the guys who attacked Kargil as heroes. That is at least something understandable. Those guys took on combat troops of the Indian army, not innocent civilians. I can understand that sort of canonization (pardon the pun). But I refuse to believe that any number of people in large numbers can claim that terrorists killing unsuspecting civilians are heroes.

Your soldier is your hero and my enemy. My soldier is my hero and your enemy (unless of course he's involved in My Lai, Haditha or Abu Ghraib). But a terrorist can be no one's hero.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Blasts in Bombay

Day 2

9:00 a.m. - Services on the Western line between Churchgate and Borivali have now been restored. WR folks worked throughout the night to clear the tracks and repair the damage.
9:05 a.m. - In case you haven't seen it yet, this blog post is helpful for Indians abroad to get information about their dear ones' well-being. This wiki lists all the relevant information.
9:18 a.m. - A group of irate passengers who spent the night in and around Churchgate station spoke to Star News asking for a bandh, i.e a day's shutdown.
11:00 a.m. - Death toll updated to 190. Injured - 663.
11:45 a.m. - Initial investigations point to LeT and SIMI involvement, which is a no-brainer really. Only they have the infrastructure, resources and the methodology to carry out attacks of this scale. A Mumbai police team is off to Aurangabad for investigations. Aurangabad is where a huge cache of explosives was recovered a few days back.
11:50 a.m. - The Western line is now fully operational. Churchgate-Virar services have now started. One must commend the speed and efficiency with which WR worked to literally get everything back on track. Offices, schools and colleges are open.
What was the whole deal behind targeting just first class compartments? The bombs must have been placed in Churchgate for sure. Did they choose the first class compartments because they would be relatively easier to get into during rush hour, at least at Churchgate? Or was it some warped demented modern-day-Robin-Hood mentality at work, justifying the bloodbath under the rationalisation - "We just killed the rich"?
12:30 p.m. - While ordinary Mumbaikars are back to their normal routines, the politicians are also back to their normal routine. News has come in that there was an uproar in the Maharashtra Assembly and it was adjourned. So our elected representatives, who spend millions of rupees a day on themselves during these Assembly sessions, would rather waste more public money by displaying mindless pedestrian rage, than sit and discuss how to tackle the situation. Rather than ask hard questions, and come up with solutions, they are making a spectacle of their pettiness by adjourning a session. While it is admirable that banks, shops, factories, schools and colleges are up and running so soon, we should remember that all of them don't really need to be functional immediately. The need of the hour is to have our so-called representatives working extra time. But they have just thrown tantrums, exchanged charges, caused the assembly to adjourn, and are probably enjoying a sumptuous meal at our expense.
12:40 p.m. - I hope there is a serious public campaign for the installation of CCTV cameras in trains and other public places. The culprits of 7/7 in London were identified because of CCTV cameras. If there were such cameras in our local trains, we could at least find out who did this, and go after them. Some newspaper or TV channel should calculate the money required for it and compare it with the money spent on VIP security, helicopters, and other perks.
1:10 p.m. - Home Secretary Duggal has revealed that investigations into the blasts have led to the information that terror attacks have also been planned against several prominent installations. Security has been beefed up at airports. Folks, be vigilant if you travel by air, and keep an eye out for suspicious packages.
2:15 p.m. - Director General of Police Dr. Pasricha just appeared on Aajtak, and he spoke about the CCTV issue. He said it had been decided to install CCTV cameras in Mumbai locals after the London blasts. A tender was called, but due to some "technical issues", it had to be re-tendered. i.e CCTV cams would have been in place to identify the culprits if only the somnolent Indian state had not taken a year(and counting) to buy such vital equipment. So we can learn lessons from terror attacks in other cities. But the babus feel compelled to pocket their cut even in implementing the lessons learnt.

Retendering is almost a sure-shot indication of corruption even in the procurement process of CCTV cameras. Or else why would it take a year to procure something as simple as CCTV equipment? They aren't nuclear weapons, you know!
Maybe RTI should be used to find out exactly what delayed this hallowed tendering process so much and someone should be held accountable.
5:30 p.m. - BREAKING NEWS. There has been a grenade attack on a tourist bus at Gulmarg, one of the most picturesque destinations in Kashmir. Fortunately no one is dead yet, but 5 tourists have been wounded. These attacks, coming after the 5 attacks in Srinagar yesterday also targeting tourist, show that the terrorist bosses sitting in Pakistan have launched a renewed two-pronged campaign. One is to incite communal trouble in Indian cities like Bombay. Two, is to drive away from Kashmir, the tourists who have been returning in big numbers over the last few years helping the state limp back to some normalcy.

This is a battle cry from the terrorists which needs to be heeded seriously by the Indian government. Over the last couple of years, a lot of senior terrorists in kashmir have been killed or arrested. Which explains why even these attacks in kashmir are relatively low-fi grenade attacks. One can't help but feel that a plane hijack or a high-profile hostage situation is around the corner, to ask for the release of some key terrorists. The government needs to be prepared for such an eventuality. Even if they can not avoid such a situation, they should have a well-defined action plan ready to avoid a shameful capitulation like the Kandahar hijacking in 1999.
7:45 p.m. - Javed Akhtar outside a hospital on the verge of tears, is asked by a reporter "What would you like to say to the people of Bombay?". He responded - "Kya kahoon unhey?Bandh mat karo? Sab bhool jao? Kitni bar? Kitni bar?" (What should I say to them? Don't observe a bandh? Forget everything? How many times? How many times?)
8:00 p.m. - More than 24 hours after the attacks, the Prime Minister appears on TV to address the nation. The address is insipid, wishy-washy and predictable. "India will not kneel" he bleats. Even for a 3-minute address, he had to have a typed speech, which he kept reading from, looking down all the time. If you can not find it in your heart to deliver even such a short address extempore, get a teleprompter, for heaven's sake! At least give the people an illusion that you are looking them in the eye and speaking to them.
8:30 p.m. - The footage being shown now has him looking straight. Seems like they got the teleprompter working and recorded his speech again.

Day 1

6:58 p.m. - Serial blasts have rocked Bombay. AajTak is reporting 5 blasts, all in local trains along the Western line. The 5 blasts reported so far are in or around Mahim, Khar, Jogeshwari, Borivali and Bhayander. This is rush hour, and apparently the blasts have been very strong, so fatalities will be very high. All phone lines are jammed. Someone really wants riots in Bombay.
7:04 - The blast was at Matunga Road Station and not the Mahim station closeby. It turns out the blast was so intense that the station's roof was demolished. It has also started raining pretty hard in several blast sites making relief and rescue very difficult.
7:20 - According to CNN-IBN, at least 20 are dead in the Matunga Road blast alone. At least 2 blasts have taken place in first class compartments.
7:25 - Live pictures from different blast sites show only normal people helping the injured. Not a single cop or paramedic is visible. And it has now been over an hour since the first blasts happened.
They just showed the compartment in which the blast occured. It is badly mangled. These have been VERY powerful blasts.
7:28 - CNBC is claiming 6 blasts. They are listing Matunga Road and Mahim as separate blasts. The two stations are very close to each other. It is not yet clear if these are separate blasts or if CNBC has gotten it wrong.
7:30 - A Western Line official speaking to Aajtak has confirmed 7 blasts. Matunga Road and Mahim have been separate blasts. And there has been a blast at Bandra too. Most blasts have been in first class compartments. It should be noted though that even first class compartments are jam packed at rush hour.
7:42 - Rajdeep Sardesai on CNN-IBN - "These pictures are now being beamed on all CNN networks all over the world. Indians all over the world watching CNN are now watching CNN-IBN. This is the power of CNN-IBN".
Yes Rajdeep, we are very proud of you. Your timing for patting yourself on the back is admirable.
7:56 - Central Railway and BEST buses are running as per schedule.
7:58 - IndiaTV and Star News are talking of 8 blasts. Not clear yet where the 8th blast happened.
8:05 - Confusion prevails over whether there was an 8th blast. Now it has been 2 hours since the blast but no government official has appeared on TV to make a statement. On CNBC, a Mumbai police official, JCP Arun Patnaik, was quick to shirk off blame saying security in trains is the responsibility of Railway Police.
8:08 - The two channels are now back to saying 7 blasts. So the 8th blast has presumably not happened. At least 50 confirmed dead. But looking at how mangled the compartments are, I am sure the number will be at least thrice as much.
8:15 - Two hours and phone lines are still jammed.
8:20 - The Pakistan government has condemned the attacks. We are all very touched I am sure.
8:25 - Police are now confirming at least 100 dead.
8:30 - All the long-distance trains in and out of Mumbai on the Western Railway have been halted.
8:48 - Predictable response from BJP. law-and-order failure, soft approach, intelligence failure...blablabla.
9:05 - Rajdeep is unstoppable. He boasts - "CNN-IBN was the first to report these blasts."
10:15 - Sharad Pawar made a very sensible comment - "The Railway Minister, Home Minister and others may want to visit the site and the victims. And it is a natural reactions. But when VIPs visit so soon, it is seen that the attention of doctors and other staff at hospital goes more into looking after the VIPs. And the victims suffer. So my appeal to VIPs is not to visit the victims so soon."
10:22 - Oh yes, the final blast count is 8. The locations(from south to north) are - Mahim, Matunga Road, Bandra, Khar, Santacruz, Jogeshwari, Borivali, Mira Road
The official fatality count is 139.
10:25 - R R Patil, The Home Minister of Maharashtra spoke to media-persons giving these updates, giving relevant information and looking visibly upset. Such a statement means a lot more than the textbookish rhetoric-laden quotes being given by other politicians which just invites cynicism and derision.
10:50 - Oh dear. Now we are back to 7 blasts. The police have clarified that the 8th was not a blast but was defused unexploded. So 8 blasts were planned but only 7 went off.
11:00 - For people living in the Western suburbs, the situation as far as getting home is concerned, is a bit like 26/7 last year. Traffic is moving at snail's pace. And like last year, Mumbaikars are out on the street helping people out. Distributing samosas, biscuits, water etc to people stuck in the traffic.
11:55 - Some good news. The Churchgate-Mahalakshmi stretch of Western Railway is now operational. There wasn't a single blast between this stretch of course. The blasts occured between Matunga Road and Bhayander. Refer to this map to get a better idea. WR officials say that they will do their best to restore the entire line by tomorrow morning.
12:03 - The Western Express Highway, which is the arterial road connecting the Western suburbs, is packed with vehicles. Even the vehicles are packed. Cars and bikes which usually go half-empty are giving rides to people going in their directions. And of course, shopkeepers and residents along the road are on the streets with food and water, helping the travellers out.
12:05 - A friend from the US tells me that the blasts are getting maximum coverage on CNN in USA. It seems like the US has finally woken up to the reality of terrorism in India. I was amused to read a few American bloggers write about the blasts as if terrorism has made a debut in India. They mean well of course. They just don't know that terrorism has been a problem in India for over 2 decades now. This is not Spain or Bali where terrorism just "arrived". We've been nursing the tapeworm in our bellies for ages.
Perhaps overwhelmed by the unprecedented coverage for an Indian tragedy on American television, all the TV channels are calling it 7/11, American style. This is India guys. Remember 26/7, 13/12, etc? We call it 11/7. Capisce?

Also read -
Amit Varma
Mumbai Help
Metroblogging Mumbai


2:17 a.m. - I am signing off for the day. A few more updates as well as a few observations of my own -

Western Railway is working hard to ensure that the trains are back on track by the morning. Several stretches are already open.

The Shiv Sena has still not made a comment about this. They will obviously react with anger, lashing out at Pakistan and the UPA government. But I really hope, with all digits my extremities crossed, that they display some maturity and responsibility. I hope they do not escalate this beyond a limit. Considering their past record, the response to the statue desecration was compritively restrained, and I hope it holds true for the blasts as well.

Let us not get carried away and start accusing the authorities of negligence. Terror is not new to Mumbai and there is no reason to think that the police or the intelligence agencies had any concrete information that they failed to act upon. Placing bombs in trains in Mumbai is not very difficult, and it is not possible to avoid all such instances.

That said, maybe some measures are necessary. Installing CCTV cameras in all local train compartments and stations will help monitor security much better. Or at least identify the culprits and bust their networks. CCTV cameras will also help check incidents of molestation. It is one measure that needs to be thought of.

I need to sign off now as will have a scheduled outage in a few minutes. It's been a tough day for the city, and the tragedy has a slightly personal note for me too. I am fortunate that neither me nor any of my acquaintances were victims today. But Western Line is "my" line. I have regularly travelled on those very tracks. The idea that almost 200 people were killed along the very familiar landscape which is a part of my life chills me, angers me and saddens me.

My condolences to all those families who lost someone today.

Daily SomeAchaar - Meeting the Statue Vandals

Mumbai, July 11 - It has been reliably learnt by the Daily SomeAchaar that the desecration of the statue of Thackeray's wife on Sunday was the umpteenth such attempt by the culprits, and they were glad it finally succeeded.

The culprits, speaking to the Daily SomeAchaar on conditions of anonymity said they were relieved that their 7th attempt was finally fruitful. It seems that they had been taking the efforts of sneaking into the statue area, and pasting it with mud every single day in the last week, only to be dismayed as torrential rain washed out all their hard work. Mumbai was lashed by heavy rains all through the last week, disrupting not just day-to-day life but also statue desecration.

"The rain really got on our nerves. We would go through all this trouble, dirty our hands, desecrate the statue, and wait for some retalitaion. Only to find that this damned rain washed away everything in a few minutes and left the statue spotlessly clean."

The culprits also experimented with different chemicals to ensure that the muck they used would not be washed off by the rain. But the force of the rain was just too much and all their hard work was undone every time.

They were delighted to see that there were no clouds looming over the horizon on Sunday morning when they finally succeeded. Even though their endeavours met with success, the wasted efforts of the previous days still rankle.

"Statue desecration is one of the pillars of Indian politics. If statues weren't desecrated, great men would not have been able to shape modern Indian history. Considering the significance of this activity, we would request the government to build large canopies for all statues so that the problems faced by us are not repeated in the future. this statue had a canopy, but it was too small to protect it from the torrential rain.", they said.

The culprits were also miffed at the government's plans to erect a big statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji in the sea off the coast of Mumbai.

"What is the use of such a statue? Do they have any idea how difficult it will be to desecrate it? Boats, ladders, helicopters, ropes.... so much effort. Why is the government hell-bent on a statue which can contribute nothing to the country?"

The two are in hiding these days and are engaged in negotiations for a contract to desecrate some more statues, the most prominent among them being Dr. Ambedkar's statue in Lucknow, since U.P. state elections are round the corner.

Monday, July 10, 2006

What did Materazzi really say?

What was it that got Zizou so upset?

He called him bald?

Much worse!

He called him a terrorist?

Much worse!

He called his sister a prostitute?

Much worse!

So what did he say?

Well, Materazzi asked Zizou "Bhaiyya hum chlormint kyun khaatey hain?"

So Zizou was compelled to butt him and say "Dobara mat poochna!"

(Insight via email from Saptarshi Basu)

Good Riddance!!

Nya nya nya nya, nya nya nya nya, hey hey hey, Goodbye
Nya nya nya nya, nya nya nya nya, hey hey hey, Goodbye
Nya nya nya nya, nya nya nya nya, hey hey hey, Goodbye
Nya nya nya nya, nya nya nya nya, hey hey hey, Goodbye

Don't let the pit door hit you on the ass, you over-rated, obnoxious, irritating, whiny loser.

Lal Salaam!

It has happened. I am now a communist. I too am now in favour of a brutal revolution for the purpose of equality.

What did it?

This vulgar display by one of the haves.

The means of production....I mean entertainment... are in the possession of a few. The means of entertainment should be equitably distributed so that have-nots such as me can stake their rightful claim.

Long live revolution!

Get some red flags and meet me outside Beatzo's house. I'll get the hammer, sickle and the crowbar.

This post was germinated in the comments section of this Sunil Pai post.

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Superyawn

Superman Returns is just painfully and mindnumbingly boring. Too long, too loose, too unimaginative....and did I mention it was boring?

Singer, how could you?

Spiderman 3 needs to make up for this. On behalf of the spandex world.

Shattering Myths About Libertarians

Murray Rothbard has written a great article deconstructing six common myths about libertarianism.

Hat-tip: Patrix.

Whom Will They Donate Fish To Then?

The underlying point to the plight of the victims in the Narmada Valley, or even in the Posco deal is very simple. Eminent domain sucks. If I own something, then I should have the final say on whether I want to sell it or not. And at what price I will sell it. Whether it is a tv, car, books, shoes, or my land. When you make it constitutionally possible for anyone else but the owner to decide about the sale of the land, you are just setting the stage for such "injustice".

So why don't the protestors and social workers ever ask for addressing the root cause of the problem itself? Why, instead of spending years and years bargaining over just compensations, extracting promises, and brainstorming for "creative" ideas to compensate the victims, don't these activists and caretakers of conscience just demand scrapping of eminent domain?

Maybe the answer lies in the old fishing adage. Give a man fish you feed him for a day, teach him to fish and you feed him for life. Right? Now how would a philanthropist who massages his conscience by giving men fish, like it if everyone learns to fish? What will he do then to feel important and guilt-free?

Update: Karthik makes a great post making a similar point.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Unimaginable Extent of Sycophancy!!

Writing this post after having spent around ten minutes laughing at how ridiculous some people can get. India has a long history of sycophancy. Bihar produces some of the choiciest examples of the same. And of course, the magnet for all sycophants is the Congress Party.

But even the most creative writer for The Onion cross-bred with Jaspal Bhatti could not have cooked up what the Youth Congress in Patna has done. NDTV just showed them spending a shitload of money on a yagnya. And what is the yagnya for?

Make sure you are not drinking or eating anything before you go on reading, or you'll spray your computer screens.

The yagnya is to pray for Italy to win the World Cup. Of course, huge pictures of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, for some bizarre reason, were also placed at the yagnya site.

What's more, they have pledged to distribute 100 kgs of laddoos if Italy wins.

Well, if the Italians do bag the cup on Sunday, they know whom to thank.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Since 1st July, I have been living a temporary self imposed period of unemployment.... or in others words taking a 45 days vacation, before I move on to bigger things in life. And I have been making the most of this vacation by watching tons of movies, sitcom episodes, and catching up on that new love of my life, graphic novels. And of course, sitting at home thankful that neither my electricity nor cable nor broadband connections went bust while Bombay glubglubed its way out of another torrent. I was getting the maximum bang for my buck out of another sort of torrent. ;)

Among the movies that I struck off my to-watch list, the best so far has been Four Rooms, the directed by Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodrigues, and 2 more people whose name I now forget inspite of having made a quiz question about them. The movie is superb. Lots of blood, gore, obscenities, nudity, gangsters, witches, and of course Tim Roth. In other words, a well-made dish of Tarantino cuisine. But here's the surprising part. I actually liked the portion directed by Robert Rodriguez more than the one directed by Tarantino. It had more comic madness and hilarious violence stuffed into it.

The next best movie I watched is coincidentally also co-directed by Rodriguez. Sin City. Sarika had told me that the movie was exactly like the comic. But until you watch it, you can not imagine how much exactly....hold on, let me put it in uppercase, italics and bold, EXACTLY like the comic. Right down ti the blood being white or red depending on which colour it was so in the corresponding panel. If all film-makers would be this loyal to the original work, I am sure all writers would be more than happy to allow movies to be made on their precious creations.

Next in line is Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins.

I also finished reading the 75 part Sandman series and was astounded by the richness, depth and ingenuity of Neil Gaiman. And what startled me the most was the fact that Joshua Norton on whom #31 Three Septembers And A January is based, was a real person! It's brilliant how Gaiman has woven Sandman and two of his endless siblings into the story.

Before withdrawl symptoms could set in after I finished #75, Aadisht came to the rescue and told me to move on to Preacher. I am halfway through it and it is breathtaking to say the least. I love Cassidy, by Jaysis, and my favourite line from the series so far has not belonged to the storyline but something Garth Ennis wrote in response to a few letters suggesting actors to play the various characters if a Preacher movie was ever made. "A few of you wrote in to say that Cassidy should be played by Hugh Grant which shows that crack abuse is reaching epidemic proportions"

I was ROFL-ing for ten minutes.

So anyway, the clouds have cleared, the sun is out and the trains are running again. So Bombay, I will let you get back to your work as I attempt to finish the Preacher series by tonight, and maybe have a few kebabs for dinner.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

No Way!

There is no friggin way Tarantino could've written Natural Born Killers. Absolutely no way he would have written a movie so boring that I quit it midway. Bet most of it was Oliver Stone. Tarantino has been credited with just the story after all, not the screenplay. And it is the ab-so-friggin-lutely yawn-inducing screenplay that is the film's undoing.

Spreading Democracy?

Nawaz Sharif, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan has written in his biography that Musharraf was planning a nuclear attack on India during Kargil. What is more interesting is, Sharif was told this by Clinton during the meeting after which Sharif called off troops from Kargil.

So the Americans have been supporting and feeding for the past 5 years, a dictator who they KNOW during his Army Chief days was planning a nuclear strike against a democratic country.

This is why the American talk of spreading democracy makes me sick. Go to war against Iraq, Iran or whoever. I don't care. I am not one of those Indians so ignorant about the problems in their country that they go borrowing angst from the Iraqis and Iranians and then spill on to the streets.

But using democracy and freedom as excuses for the wars is just plain and simple bull faeces.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

What Bull!

The most optimistic campaign of all time has to be Red Bull. The company has literally been burning money advertising the product which supposedly gives you wings. Now I have no doubt that Red Bull as a niche high energy product can survive in the market. But the amount of money they are pumping into the ad campaigns is too much, and will require high volumes of sales to recover. The drink is quite high priced of course - in India a can costs 75 rupees - but even with that price they will need substantial volumes. I do not envy the sales guys in Red Bull.

In an era when low calorie drinks are the rage, and health awareness is on the rise, I don't see how a drink with such a high cal content can hope to achieve the required volumes of sales. The only guy I have met who regularly drinks Red Bull is a cadet at NDA, where the daily schedule is intensely physical.

And they really are burning up money. They already had a Red Bull team in Formula 1 racing last year. This year, they took over another team and called it Torro Rosso.

If this Red Bull strategy succeeds, it will be an all time great Marketing case. But I don't see it happening.

On Someone Else's Terms

Even after all these years in the police force, I can not get accustomed to the stench of death. This job can get you used to all kinds of smells. More so in this city, whose overwhleming characteristic is not its spirit but the variety of stenches it emits. I have gotten used to the smell of stale urine, dried blood on a passed out criminal, impromptu garbage islands that dot the city, sweaty terrycot, salt pans, reluctant sea breeze... but I can not get used to the stench of death.

And the stench of death obviously hung heavy in the shamshan, the cremation grounds. I stood on the pathway leading up to the electric portion of the crematorium. Where bodies were incinerated in a few minutes. I always found electric cremation very shallow and mechanical. A burning wooden pyre helps you grieve, helps you get closure, as you see a loved one consumed by the flames gradually. In electric cremation, the only closure you get is the clink of the metal trapdoor of the oven as it shuts after you put the body in.

There were just a handful of people for his cremation. His mother, sister, a few aunts and a couple of friends. And of course me. I used to be a close friend once upon a time. Once upon a time, when we were kids, growing up in the dingy lanes of Mumbai's northern suburbs. Our friendship belonged to a much simpler time, when all that mattered was fun and games. The games served as our masters. We knew their rules because we set them. Our little world was run by our own rules, and friendship meant being in the same team in a game we own.

As we grew up though, we drifted apart. We were still playing games, but this time the rules were drawn by someone else, and the rules were as ruthless as could get. As a child, if you were out first ball in every game you played, you would still be in the team. No one would want to disocciate themselves from you because you were bad at the game. You merely got teased about it a lot. But the games we played when we grew up were not kind on the losers. The bizarre rules, whoever drew them up, required us to do everything short of jumping through hoops. There was one inane exam after another, one interview after another, promotions, pay hikes, rewards. Here the losers were rudely cast away. Yet each of us managed to find some game we were good at. One friend became an engineer, the other started writing movie scripts, the third ran his own restaurant. And I became a cop. We all internalised the rules of one game, and then lived as much of our life on our own terms as possible.

Not him. He failed at everything. He was the opposite of Midas. Everything he touched turned to crap. One failure after another, forced him to live life on someone else's terms. Every time he tried to break out of the rut and soar high, he found that the quagmire around him made it impossible to flap his wings. And he kept sinking deeper.

"Thanks for coming, beta", his mother was next to me. "He always respected you a lot."

"And I respected him, aunty. He was a good man. Very kind-hearted". Good man...kind-hearted, those were the best things you could say about him. He was not the greatest inspiration for a stirring eulogy. And I, knowing what I knew, felt even more sorry for him.

"Has the boy in the car been arrested?" she queried with a hint of anger

"He has run away to Dubai. Immediately after the accident, he realised that he had killed someone, and headed to the airport. His father is a big businessman. A lot of influence. But don't worry, aunty. I am handling this case personally. I will ensure that he goes to jail."

Some people use vindictiveness as an outlet for their extreme sorrow. Others find their extreme sorrow eclipsing their vindictiveness. Aunty clearly belonged to the first category.

"Yes, beta. I want him to hang for what he did. He feels that just because he is a big man's son, he can crush people to death?"

She thanked me once more and went to talk to some of her relatives.

A short while later, the attendant called out his name. The family started moving towards the electric oven. I couldn't take it any more. I slipped out of there and walked towards my jeep. Once I reached the jeep, I reached into my pocket and took out the note I had found on him, and read it for possibly the millionth time.

I do not wish to live in a world that is created to make me feel worthless. I am sick of living life as a complete failure. I will not lead a life without doing at least one thing on my own terms. Dying. I am ending my life in the Arabian Sea.

He had wrapped the note in a plastic bag and sealed it so it would be unharmed even after the sea had ravaged him. He was on his way to the sea late at night, but was struck by a speeding BMW while crossing the road just around 50 metres from the beach. The impact killed him on the spot.

I tore up the suicide note and shed tears for my friend who could not even die on his own terms.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Rahul Dravid!

This blog has blasted Rahul Dravid for giving up the chase at St. Kitts. But this test match has well and truly belonged to him, in every way possible. As a captain for sure, but more so as a batsman. It is on a bowler's wicket thar Rahul Dravid's true class shines forth. It was his batting and his batting alone that won us the game. The bowlers did well too, but then on a pitch like this, which bowler won't be deadly? The key was in batting and Rahul Dravid marshalled the innings to take India to its first series win away from the subctoninent against a serious test team in 2 decades.

The great Sir Don Bradman once said that he had seen many batsmen in his time who were better than him. The problem was, they would keep getting out too easily. In this test, Dravid prevailed simply by not getting out easily. In hindsight, it was his partnership with Kumble in the first innings that turned out to be the decisive one. Anil Kumble, probvably the most unsung cricketer of all time, has played a more vital role in this test with his batting than his bowling, no mean feat considering that he took 6 wickets in the second innings. Yet, his crucial knock will probably never be remembered.

Brian Lara lost the game in his mind when he displayed frustration at the pitch with mock-applause aimed at the groundsman. Of course, he has every right to be disappointed that his groundsmen prepared a pitch which would give India an edge, but letting it dominate his thinking so much probably cost him the game.

Let us savour this series victory, and let us applaud Dravid's boys for creating history. But let us also remember that this is one of the bottom-ranked teams in the world and tougher challenges lie ahead. We should look at the situation as analogous to a team which has followed on and has managed to wipe out the deficit. Not winning series for so many years in places like West Indies and Zimbabwe was as disgraceful as following on. By winning series in both those countries, we have wiped out the deficit.

Now it is time to build on this and build up a lead.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

All hail the Goddess!

Do you live a life of confusion? Is your room always messy? Are things around you chaotic? Do you feel nothing makes any sense?

Discordianism is the answer to your problems.

What is Discordianism you might ask?

Well, the answer is Five Tonnes of Flax.

Still don't get it?

Consult your pineal gland.

And while you're at it also read Principia Discordia.

An Instructional Video

Rahul Dravid's batting in the Jamaica test can be recorded and serve as an instructional video for batting lessons. Except for the first session on the first day, when he batted way slower than even the situation demanded, he has been flawless. A perfect example of playing the ball on its merit. He gave every good ball its due respect, got into perfect position, and never looked like getting out. And when a loose ball came along, not once did it go unpunished. There were divinely timed drives in the V when it was overpitched, ruthlessly despatched pulls when it was short, and mathematically placed cuts when it was wide. An innings which underscored the supremacy of technique even in this day and age.

It is innings like these that infuriate me even more when he is on a flat pitch and does not take it up a notch. He sets his own limits and he sets them way short of his capabilities.

India may still win this match. On a pitch this deadly, I think 225 is already a winning score. but pushing it up to 300-plus will really make it impossible. Hope India do it today. It is in Jamaica that the team has well and truly missed Sachin Tendulkar. An innings here similar to the one he played against the Australians on an even worse pitch and a vastly better bowling attack, would have hammered all possible nails into the Windies coffin.

Yuvraj Singh's mode of dismissal was extremely disappointing. The man is bizarre. Why did he play that typical swish outside the off stump? Most others, even Dhoni, did not throw it away, and it was the pitch that got them out. With Kaif it was an error in technique, with the gap between bat and pad. But Yuvraj's harakiri was inexplicable. A mistake is much more criminal than an error.