Thursday, May 28, 2009

Poetry-shoetry, culture-vulture, Jai ho!

Who says politicians are the only ones who are vicious? Poets can be vicious too, as the murky happenings in Oxford University recently show.

Distinguished poet Derek Walcott who was the popular contender for Oxford’s prestigious chair in poetry had to bow out because of an anonymous campaign about his sexual misdemeanours. He withdrew stating that the campaign had, “degenerated into a low and degrading attempt at character assassination.”

Next in contention was Ruth Padel, a great-great-grand daughter of Charles Darwin, who assumed the poetry chair in Oxford, only to resign. It so happened that she was the one behind the malicious attack on Derek Walcott. In the campaign Ms. Padel had noted Mr. Walcott’s age (79), claimed that he was in poor health and pointed out that he lived in the Caribbean, not Britain. The Sunday Times quoted her as having gone on to say that “what he does for students can be found in a book called ‘The Lecherous Professor,’ recording one of his two reported cases of sexual harassment.”

But who among the famous poets are above reproach? According to New York Times “Michael Deacon in The Telegraph cited Lord Byron (“womanizer”), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (“drug fiend”), John Keats (“smackhead” [heroin addict]), Rudyard Kipling (“imperialist”), T. S. Eliot (“lines that could be construed as racist”) and Dylan Thomas (“drank like a drain, begged and stole from friends”), among others, and concluded, “Not one of them, were they alive today, could hope to land the Oxford post — they just don’t meet the exacting moral standards set by people who conduct smear campaigns.””

Huh, ho, and you thought poets were such refined and cultured people. Who wins? Our own Prof. Arvind Mehrotra who is next in line for the poetry chair in Oxford. Jai ho!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Indian Male Libido Going Haywire?

Thursday morning’s Times of India had two news items on rapes of minors in Bombay on the front page. One was 7 years old and one was 13 years old. Oh, God, I think, is it sin to be born female in this country?

The first happened to be done inside a prominent politician’s car, outside his bungalow, and the second one happened to the daughter of a prominent Bollywood actor and director. (This rapist as it turned out was a serial offender who specialised [sort of] in raping 13-year-olds and had earlier raped another girl [yes, 13 year old] in a hotel in Madh, close to Mumbai.) I go huh again! How can the hotel staff have no control over whoever brings a minor into their premises? If this happens under the nose of such prominent and influential people what could happen to less prominent and ordinary folks?

Is it showing the frustration of Indian male, the unreality of what goes on in our media and the reality of having to suppress sexual urges in corporeal life? What turns the male to such heinous acts, what compels the animal in them? What makes it more repugnant is that after raping they resort to killing, seemingly expiating them from the guilt of the act.

Bombay was thought to be a safe city for girls. Does this general impression still hold? As usual I turn to my friend Anthonybhai for a quote: “You see, men, see all those girls in chaddies dancing in item numbers? They are turning women into a commodity, men, to be used, seen naked on posters, I think that only is to blame, hhhaaa!” Don’t know if he is right.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Recession Jokes

In a lighter vein, here are some recession jokes that landed up in my inbox (very droll):

The only "deposits" being made on a Ferrari are the ones made by birds flying over them.

Q: What's the difference between an investment banker and a large pizza?
A: A large pizza can feed a family of four.

Q What's the difference between a bond and a bond trader?
A. A bond matures.

Q. Did you hear Goldman Sachs has a new cafeteria?
A. It's called the Warren buffet.

En Passant....

Sushant Sinha writes to me from Michigan:

"I am a PhD student in the University of Michigan and I started a search engine for Indian law called Indian Kanoon ("

Checked it out, it works like a dream and is good for lawyers and lay people wanting to research legal cases. Use it!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Election Result: People Want Less Corruption, Less Hatred, More Stability

Whatever you say of India, the democratic process is still strong and doesn't hesitate to punish wrong-doers and silly unscrupulous bribe takers and reward those who are in the right. The congress had stalwarts who were known to be free of blemishes in their standing and who were upright in their conduct in power like: Dr. Manmohan Singh, AK Antony, Pranab Mukherjee, etc. were brought back to power. So the voters' decision was to have people who can be trusted to bring stability and give a thumbs down to corrupt people who were riding high on the single point of their much flaunted fundamental approach, which, sad to say, no longer gels with the people. Look at how people rejected fundamentalism as the way to redress their problems. It's a victory of the Indian electorate, the people who queue up to give their vote to whoever they consider as trustworthy and uncorrupt.

If anyone from anywhere around the world has been reading this and wondering what I am blabbering about; this is to inform them that the monolithic Congress party of which the above worthies are members have swept to power with a majority in the democratically conducted elections. Amen.

There’s a lot of “I told you so” in the media, with pundits of various hues and attire waxing eloquent for hours together, all saying one thing: “I told you so.” All this when the same pundits had said that it will be a tough fight and there will be a hung parliament and the mainline coalitions would be dependent on local satrapies of Lalloo Yadav, Mulayam Singh, Mayavati, Nitish Kumar, etc. Well, that has not been the case.

India has won another battle in asserting that it is a secular state and that any attempt to turn it into a Hitlerian (The man in saffron who models himself after one, and the young upstart who wants to outdo him!) oligarchy would be strongly opposed. Democracy, dear people, is all about tolerance and amity with each other, not about hatred or vendetta.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Genetically Modified Crops: Read and be afraid, be very afraid....

Serendipity (as I had only recently written about farmer suicides resulting from genetically modified BT Cotton, see this article ), you might call it that, or chance, or a case of mutual affinity, perhaps, led me to this article written by Dan Baum for Playboy magazine on genetically modified food that is causing so much calamity in the farming population in India. The introduction to the article declares as follows:

“How big agriculture and the U.S. government bungled the biotech revolution and made a deal with the devil.”

Read the article and see what the result has been to not only the farming community in the U.S. but in the rest of the world. Read and be afraid, be very afraid.... Also read how Multinational Corporations are gaining control over the food chain. What is to be afraid is the emergence of man-made genetic combinations or mutations which will wreak havoc with both farmers and what goes into our dinner plate. Things are happening too fast in the genetic modification laboratories of multinationals, e.g., by now you are already eating genetically modified chicken, and you may be eating genetically modified fish and mutton next. The point is that moving genes from one organism to another cannot be undone.

Indian farmers are caught in just the first onslaught of the multinationals’ evil designs. "The European Union and a handful of other nations have practically banned genetically engineered foods altogether. In the U.S. even the National Academy of Science has weighed in with a stern warning: Slow down! Meanwhile the Frankenfood [the food Frankenstein] invasion continues in force.”

Why is India promoting the use of GM cotton despite the disastrous effect it is having on farmers? One wonders.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Of GM Cotton Seeds, Farmer Suicides and Prince Charles

I am back after a short holiday in Kerala, more of a working holiday, to settle some property matters with my brother. The trip was undertaken by air and while up there (28,000 ft, minus 52 degrees outside, aircraft flying at 500 plus kms per hour), I couldn't but wonder at the beauty of the world below me. The serene beauty, the accumulation of white tufts of clouds of various shapes (spires, towers, hills, peninsulas, etc.), the bluishness that ranged from magenta to mauve and beyound made me wonder why we are destroying the world at such a rapid pace, so much as to be unforgivable. Most leaders of nations and business travel by air in safely cocooned air-conditioned spaces and in cars similarly cooled by artificial means. But what happens to the farmer who toils in the hot earth down below to make a living and produce food for us to consume is something pitiful and a pathetic reminder of the rape that our dear planet is facing.

What suicides? One may ask. They drink and commit suicide, that being the popular perception, albeit a cliched one. No. The implications are much deeper. We have plundered the earth and depleted its natural water and forest cover and on top of it have interfered with the lives of farmers, which we had no business to do. The movie 11th hour ( is a chilling documentary film that details the harm we have done and as Leonardo Dicaprio rightly says in the film, "we are facing a convergence of crisis." See it, it will change your life, maybe!

I have been following the plight of farmer suicides in Vidarbha and other regions of the country for some time, as a part of an article I had written for an online news portal some years ago. The issue is of the use of Genetically Modified (GM) BT cotton seeds which are said to increase production of cotton. However, what it has turned out to be is a genocide of farmers (around one farmer committing suicide every half hour), because the farmers have been misled by the GM BT cotton peddling multinationals. They were not told the following according this article in Dail Mail:

1. Far from being 'magic seeds', the GM pest-proof 'breeds' of cotton have a tendency to be devastated by bollworms, a voracious parasite.

2. The farmers were not told that these seeds require double the amount of water. With depleting water levels around rural India the plants just wither and die.

3. Plants grown using GM seeds do not produce seeds that farmers can re-plant. That is to say, GM seeds contain so-called 'terminator technology', meaning that they have been genetically modified so that the resulting crops do not produce viable seeds of their own. So each time the farmer has to go to the company to buy their seeds at exorbitant rates. It's all about branding their product, you see?

4. Unscrupulous traders sell faux-GM-cotton-seeds at low prices, but these seeds are prone to disease, a fact unknown to farmers.

According to the abovementioned article Prince Charles is concerned by the suicides (Imagine! Prince charles, and not union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, minister from Maharashtra, where Vidarbha is situated!) that he has set up the Bhumi Vardaan Foundation to aid the farmers in distress.

Why, oh, why has it to be a foreigner who brings such tragedies at our doorsteps to our attention? What were the well-turned-out and voice-modulated talking parrots of the Indian electronic media doing? Couldn't they drag their huge vans with dish antennas and hyper-active reporters to Vidarbha and film even one such suicide?

From 28,000 feet above the earth the earth looks beautifully complacent and covered in a bluish haze. For how long I wonder!

(Hat tips to Kamayani Bali Mahabal for her post on Facebook, which led me to write this post.)