Thursday, December 20, 2012

World Corruption Index - India is Badly Off

Well this isn't very surprising news. But to see how fare against other nations of the world in the corruption index is rather, in a manner of speaking, interesting. 

Here's an index of the level of corruption in the world. The darker shade of red indicates the most corrupt countries. India is at the bottom of the pile, meaning most corrupt and Canada, Sweden, Norway, Australia have no corruption. Or, so it seems. One notices that not one country in Asia and Africa is free from corruption except for Japan. 

Hm. Charts can lie also, but this one I think is genuine, so it gets my endorsement.

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I Am Off for a Week's Holiday in Kerala, South India

Well, it's nice to know that a week from now I will be in Kerala, my home state in the south of India. As before, I will be spending nostalgia-filled evenings in the tropical climate, with a symphony of insect sounds playing in my ears. I will be posting less and enjoying myself, a deserved break, so to speak. I will be carrying my laptop on which I will try to write, but my schedule is so tight that I don't think I would be able to. There a housewarming, a wedding, a meeting of the disasporic family units (from my mother's side) spread in the U.A.E., South Africa, U.S.A., etc. So I will be meeting cousins whom I haven't met in my whole life, nephews and nieces of whose existence I was unaware till now. A lot of good food will be served to which I look forward, and fresh coconut water  and coconut chutney made from burnt coconut flesh too. This latter chutney a favourite cuisine of my brother-in-law T.V. Philip makes my mouth water as I write this. Hehe. So see you soon! Have a great Christmas!

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On the Subject of Rape in India; the Entertainment Media Is to Blame

Rape is again in the news. No, sorry, it has always been in the news in India. Everyday I open the paper to read about a father raping his three-year-old daughter, many men gangraping a minor, an innocent girl raped by her own uncle. It's downright sickening.

Now, enough, prattle, watch this video. It shows a journalist reporting on the rape of a medical student in a moving bus at 9 p.m. in the capital Delhi. The incident happened yesterday. The student and her boyfriend were returning home after watching a movie and they needed a lift to their homes. As so happens in the capital there are a number of private bus operators who run mini-buses offering rides cheap and the girl and her escort must have been tempted to step into the bus that halted in front of her. She must have done it a hundred times before without incident, moreover, her boyfriend was with her.

Four men inside the bus beat up the boyfriend and gangraped the girl, who passed out. Still the rape continued; the bus continued to circle the roads of the capital. They were abandoned after they were stripped. The girl is battling for her life in a hospital's intensive care unit. As for the boy, he must be traumatised beyond words.

About the video. Hm. As the journalist was reporting about the incident where it happened, a car stopped and its three inhabitants, all men, started teasing her. They didn't spare a journalist reporting on a crime! Unluckily for them, they were caught on camera. What have we come to, if we have come to anything at all?

Now, I always blame the entertainment media for spoiling the youth of the country. I have been told to shut up on this, which I do fairly easily. The objectification of women in the entertainment media is responsible and I can't absolve them of responsibility. Every time I watch television I cringe at the sexual thrusting of the "item girl" so suggestive, so come hither. The message sent out is "women are available, you just need to ask them, tease them."

Everybody knows this is what is wrong, but all of them shy away from pointing a finger. Because films are made by rich producers and rich stars. Even the item girls are paid two crores to do their pelvis thrusting. And our newspapers, upholders of morality, glorify these same stars who spoil the moral values of Indian youth. Two leading newspapers of India have nothing but semi-naked wannabe item girls on their pages, day in and day out. They don't even have a small space for a writer, poet, artist, or, struggling musician. All you see is short dresses, thighs and plunging necklines. What can they do when our Bollywood is like that only? Yeah, they can do a lot, for instance, why don't they write about it? Why don't they come out and say it's downright wrong and is leading the youth astray? I mean Bombay Times. It used to be an intellectual-cultural news supplement when Bachi Karkaria edited it. No longer. HT's Time Out is equally depraved. Every newspaper in the country today has a supplement that deals with flesh and sleaze. What right do they have to condemn a rape instigated by their own editorial policies? Yeah, I ask, what? 

I used to be in the thick of this money for editorial business, but I saw no reason to continue in it. I quit. I was a marketing something, something. I forget what. When these money for editorial guys would drop in on me I would ask them what the going rate was and I was astounded. They jack up the prices every now and then. They even have a rate card! And they measure out editorial coverage in square centimetres. They even have an annual contract with discounts thrown in and a guarantee to make you a page three celebrity. The last one is my invention of course.

Our youth have become spoilt and depraved. I have eavesdropped into their conversation and find they call each other "laudey" meaning penis. They don't call each other by their names or just a yaar. I have surreptitiously peeked into their SMSes and find that a a youth's girlfriend calls him "kameeney, kuttey," a very Bollywood invention. Where's their sense of respect? No wonder youth who use such language will naturally think of raping and throwing acid when their demands are not met. Need I say more?

(Disclaimer: The author has written the above in a haze of chagrin combined with outrage combined with helplessness. The contents may be taken in that spirit.)

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Finished an extensive re-write on the novel

Hmmmmppppff! Finished another round of editing on the novel. Did that sitting in the nearby Cafe Coffee Day (CCD), as I was being interrupted a lot at home. There are the usual callers: courier boys, postmen, fund-seekers for causes I didn't know exist, fishwoman, etc.I think I can work better in CCD. There was the 12.12.12. concert playing on the television. I could see my heroes: Bruce Springstein, Roger Daltry, Mike Jagger, Eric Clapton and the lot, but I couldn't hear them because the Cafe has some rule against putting on the sound. So you can see what is going on but can't hear. May be,that's to scare away people like me who buy a coffee, or, tea, and sit for hours. Hm. They didn't mind me, though. I could work seamlessly, somehow, and was not the least bit distracted. The results are here on this blog, do pay it a visit, friend, critic, well wisher. I am sure there's something for all of you in it.

Click on the above links. Be sure to leave a comment, which will be very much appreciated. Comments are back on my blog.Yes, because of a glitch the link wasn't visible for some time. But, everything is forgiven and back to normal again. So, do comment!

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Where are the book critics gone? Where are the book lovers?

Where are the book critics gone? Where are the book lovers?

Jeet Thayil, author of the recently acclaimed novel Narcopolis, recently derided Indian book critics saying that book critics didn't read a novel, instead they read other critics and if the general consensus is unsatisfactory then they also write a nasty piece. This is not book criticism, but book gossip and copycat journalism. 

Call it whatever you may, but the days of discerning critic of the past, who used to protect the reader and certain moral standards in artistic works is gone. The Times of India doesn't have a books critic or editor, instead they publish books themselves. Most newspapers don't have books editors, even if they have, they are themselves authors (or people with aspirations) who would gladly pillory a book, just because they see the writer as a threat. 

In this context it is difficult to believe that New York Times has a different supplement altogether for books and the arts. The Times of London has a Times Literary Review and the Boston Globe has a literary section. 

Newspapers in India that have been kind to books are few and far between. Mint does feature reviews, so does DNA (I have not been getting DNA for some days.) The Sunday edition of DNA had 4 pages of book reviews and I pored over these delicious offerings with greed. Outlook is the magazine to watch for book reviews and publishing trends in general. Certainly, the editor and the books editor should be appreciated for this.

Newspapers that don't feature books reviews are slowly wringing the neck of the hen that lays golden eggs. At least, that's what I think. Books may be difficult to handle, will clutter the well-laid office space, and may look incongruous perched on untidy desks. (Clean desk, eh?) But they also promote the reading habit and spread ideas and engender discourse which is crucial for a newspaper's development. Without books intellectual development isn't possible. The reason why most Indian youth don't read books of any kind is because they were not introduced to books through book reviews and discussions. Today, persuading a teenager to read when there is television and internet, is a nightmarish exercise. I tried to persuade my son to read, but the books are put away after a few pages with the excuse that they aren't interesting. Reading a book requires patience and perseverance and sometimes authors take a long time to establish characters and come to the point. 

Our public libraries are also dying: for funds, for patronage, for lack of interest. Most college libraries maintain their books under lock and key and if you want a certain book forms have to be filled up and reasons stated. The US takes pride in the number of libraries they have and how well they are maintained and run.

I was a member of the American Centre and British Council libraries till they shifted to various other places to which access is difficult. American Centre library functions from Bandra-Kurla Complex while British Council Library is situated in Lower Parel where walking on the street is a nightmare. May be, because they were so popular they decided to locate them in remote locations, at least, I feel that way. 

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Times Literary Carnival

I was at the Times Literary Carnival yesterday.  Despite Times of India's pulling power, the audience was sparse yesterday. The sessions last year were better attended. What went wrong? Are we seeing a polarisation of literary festivals. Hehehe. Meaning Litlive's  (Tata's) people will not attend Litcarnival and vice versa? Well, that would be taking literature to new heights of bitching. Why were so many icons of literary life in India missing despite the money and the media clout: newspaper, television, internet, magazines? 

Saw the mother-daughter duo of Anita Desai and Kiran Desai in conversation with the publisher of penguin. What else can you expect from this session except a view of their writing habits and some mother-daughter pow-wow. Turned out to be that exactly. What did I benefit. Nothing. In fact I wanted someone who has read Anita Desai to quiz her on her characters and story plots. There are many sessions like that such as "Bringing up Vikram" about bringing up Vikram Seth. Come on, now which aspiring writer would be interested in that? They won't be bringing up any writers soon, not in the literal sense. Add something intellectually challenging, something zingy. Is this a Carnival or what? Suketu Mehta hasn't written anything after "Maximum City" for eight years and he was there as the keynote speaker. Wow! 

I saw a cute penguin car near the entrance (oh I forgot to photograph it, it was an ambassador of vintage make) which advertised the company more than its books. There were moderate crowds at the book shops, but no one at the Times Book Stalls. Food was expensive. Imagine a sandwich selling for Rs 150. Can't afford these Litfests, what say? 

Some cooling salve was applied by Jeet Thayil's session with Anjali Joseph, author of Saraswati Park. Jeet rued that the gentler days of the seventies and eighties have gone. 1992 altered the character of the city, he said. He said his research for Narcopolis was drawn from personal experience of the opium dens in his student years at Wilson College, which he calls embedded journalism.

He read an excerpt from his opera Babur in London and said Babur was a ruthless killer and also a poet. Babur said, "Writing badly will make you ill." Yeah, it will. I feel ill after writing a bad blog post and  despair about it night and day. This is one of those. 

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Absolute Rot in Indian Olympic Association -- A Foreign Body Had to Point Out Our "Chalta Hai" Attitude

My writing desk, where I am now!
It's pathetic! The International Olympic Committee had to point out that the Indian Olympic Association's means of administration was all wrong: bad elections, bad managing of talent, bad programmes, et cetera. Now, isn't there anyone in the country who could have pointed that out. Are we so callous about what happens in our sporting bodies? Goes to show the limits to which cronyism has fallen in this country.

I guess all those rumours about gross mismanagement now ring true, now that the unsightly warts have been exposed. The whole thing reeks of undemocratic principles and the rule of ruffian elements. Could we have a clean-up of the sporting system please? Why isn't the sports ministry involved? It's a sad state when ex-convicts are ruling over bodies which by their nature should be democratic, free, fair and transparent.

Is it any wonder that our athletes don't win at the Olympics? Four medals you say? Well that's nothing considering we have 1 billion people, brother. Japan has far less people and more medals to show.

Meanwhile here's a picture of the state of the road before my house in Artist Village. You may also want to read my story "The Roads of Artist Village" here.

The other picture is the desk from which I am writing this.

See what the b******* have done to my road!
John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Citizens of Bougainvillea Islands Fight with Bows and Arrows. Video

The struggle of indigenous people everywhere has fascinated me. Here's how a rag-a-tag army of native people armed with bows, arrows, and stones are fighting a battle to rescue the Bougainville islands from powerful corporate organisations such as Rio Tinto Zinc.

Watch the award-winning movie, it's heartrending to see their struggle, as with struggles of indigenous people everywhere around the world. Will they succeed? Will they be suppressed by the more powerful guns and helicopters of Australia and Papua New Guinea?

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Of Childhood Bullies and Fist Fights

It was a re-union of sorts. It was at a friend's daughter's wedding, this being the season of nuptials. We had all lived in the same building in Chembur, in a lower middle class locality. There were a few tormentors of my younger days, a few of my best friends. Ah, there was also the girl I could die for, in fact most of us could, on seeing whom I had to hide my face. Not that I was embarrassed  but because age wasn't kind to her. She looked like a hag. I couldn't bear to look at the once-beautiful face and wondered what could have made her such a femme fatale in our younger days.

We all had changed and we all had remained the same. We have grown bald and white-haired. We had become pot-bellied or frightfully thin with our own particular diseases. Cricket was a passion with us, I remember waking up to the feeling of being the star left-arm bowler of the team. I could bat too. I had once scored around 30 runs coming in the tail end of the batting order. The captain, when he woke in the morning, came out with his head down, because the ugly girl who lived opposite his house was a bad omen for the team. Those days on which he sighted her inauspicious face, the team lost heavily.

We were one of the best cricket teams in Tilak Nagar, Chembur. Victory was sweet and so was defeat disappointing. We laughed and ate ice golas when we won and cried when we lost. We were a disparate bunch. Some studied in English-medium and some in Marathi-medium schools. Our differences were settled in fist fights. Yes, I had a few run ins with my contemporaries. I had challenged the bully and he had beat me badly once. Then we became friends again and had new respect for each other.

Well, we loved, fought, made up and played cricket, football, marbles, gilli danda, kabaddi, kho-kho and our days were filled with outdoor activity. How many of today's children know the exotic games we used to play? How many play any game at all? 

Those were the daze!

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.