Monday, December 16, 2013

Be in Peace, Sarasa Gopal, Our Friend

In school she showed glimmers of brilliance. When we would ask her to be on the Green House’s debating team (we were the captain) she would agree and come prepared. From then on she would call us “captain” and the name stuck. Years later when we met and decided that we school chums should meet she was the most enthusiastic of the lot. From then on we classmates of Adarsha Vidyalaya (Ganga, Ajit, Sanjeevan, Murli, Geeta, Sarsa, Chandra, Ravi, Anil, etc.) would meet every few months for a few friendly tipples and sharing of old jokes. Over the past four or five years we have become a tight-knit community inviting each other for children’s weddings, wishing each other on Onam, Christmas, Diwali.

Every meeting she would come armed with something to eat, cooked by her. She was working for a hearing-aid-manufacturing company and when the boss died he gave the business to her. But there were problems running the business and she gave it up and settled in Coimbatore with her husband Gopal. We, sort of, drifted apart as people living in different places in the sub-continent can only do, not out of will or volition, but from laziness. We thought of calling her many times, but something petty would intervene. Then from Coimbatore she sent us an email that stunned us. Both her kidneys had failed, she informed us, and she was undergoing dialysis.  

At Krishna's Wedding. Sarasa is second from left.
Then Ganga broke the news: Sarasa Gopal is no more. Few months ago when I met her at Ganga’s son Akash’s wedding she was her usual cheerful self, laughing and joking. After that came her son Krishna’s wedding and we saw her in her gayest mood. “Dhabake khana (eat well),” she told us. We couldn’t because we all looked at the sweetmeats spread before us wistfully and with regret.

All of us have our own problems and are wondering about our futures. The news is not good on the medical front. There is no cure for old age and the wearing of overworked organs. We have abused our bodies commuting and sitting in front of computers. Illness and its attendant problems can strike at any time. When it strikes there are a series of unbelievable discoveries you make about your body. The problem is, despite what they call the advancement of medical science, it remains a science of cutting and joining body parts and treating of the symptoms with antibiotics and pain killers. It disillusions you after some time. This is the plain naked truth from a sufferer himself. We can’t believe she has gone into the vast space yonder and left us all in pain. All we can do is try and be cheerful like Sarasa.


Rest in peace, Sarasa Gopal.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela R.I.P.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is no more. He died on 5th December, 2013, at the ripe old age of ninety-five. Another leader of world ranking, whom the world loved and admired is no more. Not merely a leader but a patron of sports, a statesman, and an individual who had achieved the aspirations of his people. The aspiration in this case was freedom from an oppressive rule by the formerly racist regime in South Africa (SA).

We saw an interview with the captain of the SA rugby team, a white man. He talks of how Mandela, also called Madiba – a Xhoso clan (his clan) name which mean “father” – was instrumental in promoting his sport and was also protective of the cultural diversity of the country.  Without him white South Africans could have been the target of rampaging mobs as seen in his neighbouring country Zimbabwe. He was a pacifist and one who believed in human values and therefore eschewed any feelings of revenge. It paid off well, too, because SA gained from this policy of tolerance and democracy. Our cricket team which is in SA should pay homage to this leader who displayed a more than normal interest in the game.

Altogether he spent 27 years in jail fighting for his cause. His cell wasn’t very luxurious and he slept on the floor (we saw this on the BBC), sometimes wracked with fever. The long incarceration must have taken a big toll on his health but he remained cheerful till the very end. Yet, he suffered all this because he knew his dream would one day come true. Under him the African National Congress (ANC) became a multi-ethnic and tolerant organization. He also built up an impeccable hierarchy of leaders who are leading the country now.

Admittedly, Madiba was the father figure whose word was still held in high esteem.  He could have remained President but preferred to pass the baton to younger men. After all, he didn’t believe – unlike Indian leaders – in dynastic rule. Now how the SA political narrative unfolds – in the post-Mandela scenario – no one knows. There is still poverty in the slums and ghettos and immense unrest. There is also violence. How the country will deal with these problems will unravel only in the coming months.


Meanwhile, here’s raising a hand to salute the father, the Madiba, who led a people to freedom from his jail cell.

Some Pictures of Times Literary Carnival

Hanif Quereshi, the man, the writer, the script writer, the cool unruffled one. "We artists belong to an ecosystem," something such.

Urvashi Butalia, Eve Ensler on the male sexual predator. I don't know the others.

A young admirer talks to the one being admired.

Some day!

Mikes on stage.


The historian Ramchandra Guha

Jeet Thayil interviews Hanif Quereshi. 

Some Pics of Tata Litlive

The stage at Experimental Theatre. Wonder why Times didn't cover Litlive at all. A case of not promoting a competitor?

Anuvab Pal, Amish Tripathi and Vikas Swarup in a discussion. Amish recounted how he wrote in the back of a car on the way to work and Vikas said he wrote his entire first novel when his wife was on a holiday to India.

The Amish Tripathi making a point, whatever it is.

Nik Gowing of the BBC on how the humble cell phone is making a difference in reporting. He recounted how a man inside an aircraft mentioned as he was broadcasting how he didn't like Nik's tie by Twitter. That shows how mobile technology is revolutionising reporting. Most of BBC's coverage of events in Syria were shots taken by amateurs on their mobile phones. 

Ashwin Sanghi, Peter James and Anish Trivedi (no, that was Amish Tripathi) in a discussion about the who-done-it. Peter James recounted how friendship with a few police officers gave him material for his novels. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Why Tejpal Should Not Be Lynched by the Mob

We think it’s unfair. This mob-lynching should stop. (Disclosure: We don’t know Tejpal, never ever met him, and are no apologists for his crime.) Some of Tejpal’s good friends have turned lynchers. Yet, nobody is saying a reasonable word about him. True a man in his fifties can make an error of judgment, and get carried away. Heard of crimes of passion?

We live in very deceptive times, especially the generation that flowered in the age of flower-power and “make love not war” age. Then we talked of a just and equitable society where peace was the ultimate aim of mankind. May be, there was a lot of free sex then, and a lot of what is called intellectual fornication. (We never were part of any orgies!) The youngsters of today are very different.  They haven’t been through a war and have been brought up very protectively by their idealistic parents. They belong to an interconnected networked world where results are immediate and punishment for wrongdoing is given instantaneously. They believe that being young they have the power in their hands to change the world, and indeed they do. But do we really need this hastiness? There is a danger here of forming “lynch mobs” which is contrary to what a democratic environment entails. Are we proceeding towards a system of instantaneous punishment or are we keen on reinforcing our legislative-executive-judicial system?

If a person is suspect it’s the duty of the law machinery to apportion justice and not of a lynch mob. Politicising the matter, we feel, as has happened now, may be counterproductive. Where is the need for politics in a criminal-judicial system? The Nirbhaya case has opened a Pandora’a box of sexual indiscretions in India. We aren’t saying this is bad. It’s good that sexual crimes are being reported and offenders caught. But forming a lynch mob outside the accused’s home reeks to me of a lack of understanding of basic democratic principles.

Abuse of power by a person at the top is a common occurrence. Roosevelt is said to have had many mistresses and one of it was his secretary. If the secretary had gone to the police Roosevelt would have been prosecuted because American justice system is such. In India there are many such affairs happening and we aren’t even aware of them. If found out they are said to be platonic relationships, brother-sister relationships. Indian corporations are full of such stories of abuse of power for sex. However, they do not come out, they are well hidden, only known to a few.  Tejpal’s must have been one such. So let the law take its course now that it has been revealed.

As we said we aren’t votaries of the kind of work Tejpal did nor of the way he behaved. But now that it is in the realm of law why did a certain political party demonstrate outside an accused’s bungalow? Why is a chief minister giving undue attention to the case? This only reinforces our theory of the lynch mob. When a country is taken over by a mob then chaos prevails, law and order fails, and there’s absolute anarchy. That’s the time when a dictator finds it easy to take over.


We said it first. Watch our words, and this space.

Monday, November 25, 2013

First Diwali lights

Tejpal’s Fall from the Pedestal


Okay, wokay, we are exercised about it, we are agitated about it, we tried some deep meditative techniques to wipe it away – without success – and we wait for the dust to settle before making (or, manufacturing) a  comment (which most commenters don’t do).

Tarun Tejpal. Tejpal was one of our heroes. We considered him the ultimate authority that could make or break a journalist’s (also writer’s) career. Didn’t he push The God of Small Things from obscurity into the blazing lime light? Didn’t he start his own magazine?         Didn’t he in his earlier days keep a pony tail, the sure sign of a rebel? Didn’t he….?

Until the last week when it all came crashing down. Then it became how could he…? How could he…?

Yes, how could he with one careless swing of the bat lose the wicket he had defended with all his ability? Men are known to reveal themselves at the most unlikeliest of times. Some examples: Hugh Grant did it with a prostitute in New York, Michael Jackson disgraced himself with the revelations of a teenager, John Travolta suffered at the hands of a male friend.

Tejpal had everything going for him: success, money, power. But he forgot one cardinal rule – men don’t shit at their own doorstep. He supposedly did it to a former colleague’s daughter, a friend of his daughter. It’s a case of power corrupts and he didn’t hesitate when his power granted him the opportunity for sexual favours. There may have been precedents, girls who preferred to leave rather than make an allegation. This time he chose the wrong person.

And there is this fact. Like it or not, sex rules our corporate sector. Almost every company has a sex-related scandal going on in its closet. The so-called sexual favour is rampant in corporate circles. Orders are made out and cheques are signed on the base of sexual gratification. We can’t shut an eye on this, we have to face it. When the victim becomes a young ambitious girl making her mark in journalism and also aware of her rights, then things can go wrong. Women in media aren’t like pliant secretaries; they know the law and know their rights.


What will become of the icon of investigative journalism, we don’t know. One thing is sure; men in media will use their discretion more in the days to come.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sachin Became a Great Cricketer Because He Is a Good Human Being

Okay, okay, enough said about Bombay’s crazed, mazed traffic problems. We are moving on now, though briefly, we might add. Because other earth-stopping occurrences are happening in our back yard. And our blogging fingers are itching.

Sachin Retired!

Oh, gosh! We don’t know how to take this. We sat watching the farewell ceremony and wept. We wept more than Sachin did. As did many who were present. Why? Don’t ask us.  In twenty-four years we heard the name Sachin nearly a billion times. A friend told us of a boy who was hitting sixes like there were no tomorrows.  Another said that a Sunday was reserved to watch Sachin bat and do nothing besides.

We saw the boy wonder soon after. He was a ball of energy, his shots came with ease, his eyes were intense. The way he backlifted and sent a ball sailing over the umpire and the other batsman to the sight screen was a study in graceful motion. The way he cut, flicked, hooked, were so natural that one seemed not to notice unless one went into the field. We cheered; we frissoned with a feeling of love for the small guy. It had become a habit, to watch Sachin do it on the pitch.

A Star was born!

We were a callow youth then. A cricketer, nevertheless, captain of our school’s Green House. We scored the highest runs in a match at one time and we remember it well. The score wasn’t much, around fifty, and we had scored twenty-four runs, the highest. Nonetheless we lost the match. But what we still remember is the excitement around the ground. My friends were yelling at my every shot and egging me on to greater things. But we fell at twenty four, and the match was lost.

What is it staying on the crease for so long? Ask us. There was a thrill passing through us every moment, an elation that gave rise to risky shots. In fact, we were carried away by the adulation. If it was so traumatic for me, it might have been a hundred times traumatic for Sachin. Imagine the thousands watching on the ground and around the world. He could have lost his head.

But the young boy didn’t. That was his best quality. He is a specimen, a role model for every youth in this country. After the farewell we saw a program where Sachin spoke to some kids. He said his father told him “Become a good human being first, and then it will remain with you for ever.” Kambli didn’t make it, he got carried away. There were greater talents like Anil Gurav (read how he lapsed into inebriation here) at that time, he also didn’t make it.

But, in the internecine, scandal-mongering world of cricket’s nether world Sachin did, because he was a good human being, and thus became a great cricketer.


But Sachin made it because he had a level head over his shoulder and was a good human being. I would like to ask the younger generation: “Are you a good human being before everything else?”

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Nightmare That Bombay's Commuting Is Going to Be

 Okay, we have railed at it (in this post); we have steamed in traffic wondering what went wrong with it. Yes, we were pulling our already sparse hair over it, not that we have any left. When we are sitting in traffic we can’t visualize the whole scene, about what has actually gone wrong. So, we sit with a stupid Sad Sack expression inside the bus or rickshaw and wonder, wonder, what is wrong with the city’s traffic. Ditto, with the thousands, nay, millions we have seen on the road looking at the marvels of construction, wondering where the big bridge – highway, whatever – now being constructed would take them, and would it improve the situation, if at all. Don’t ask.

The thing is, dear folks, hold your breath, lest it freeze your cockles and jam your arteries, it won’t bring order and decongest Bombay. Why are we saying this? Because we pondered a lot on the inherent problems and the stupid way our townplanners and engineers went about doing their jobs. It’s as if their brains are really sheathed by the cartilaginous cavity of their knees, or, the rough integument around their testicles. Whichever options please indulge.

The accompanying drawing (roughly done on my MS Paint software shows why. Remember, this is the result of a few simple minutes of conjecture and imagination and haven’t taken years to plan as the engineers sitting in the municipal corporation, have probably done. Then those lazy asses didn’t figure the confusion it is going to cause even after undertaking these lopsided plans at the cost of thousand of crores of the taxpayer’s money.


Bandra and Kurla could have been hubs but these have been ignored, as they have a huge slum population.
Notice how all the those highways, freeways, bridges, metros, monorails do not meet at one point anywhere. As is obvious, at present, the need of a commuter living in new Bombay and working in the western suburb is to have a central point where he can change over to the other line that would take him home. See that none of these ****ing screwing highways take him anywhere  to either Bandra or Kurla which are the hubs, so to speak, of the vast networks of trains and roads. Just look at the picture. Doesn’t your mind boggle? Don’t you want to clutch your head and curse everyone who has planned and drawn these idiotic bridges and highways? Doesn’t your aforementioned cockles turn to ice?

Engineers elsewhere in the world plan hubs (we typed hugs, sorry, shows how lonely we are as we type this in our ivory tower!) which will discharge commuters who want to find connections. In Bombay, if you are a newcomer and are searching for hubs (typed “hugs” oops! Again) you will never find any, because there are none. Bandra and Kurla could have been hubs (this time we force our fingers on the letter “b”) but have been ignored. The way it is, even as it would be in future, you would have to get down from one of these fancy transport, and board a rickshaw to reach the next hub. Reason, we aren’t aware, but, the large slum population of these hubs (voters! Voters!) could be the reason.


But then as is written on all vehicles in Bombay “Horn OK Please”, “OK, Tata”, who cares!

Friday, November 08, 2013

On the Highway to Bombay

The other day we decided to visit an old friend of ours. We had grown up – and old – together in the then burgeoning small town of Belapur and since the time was right, we decided to go. Something along the way struck me as typical of India. We don’t give enough importance to planning.  Though it was Diwali there were no lights around and we were on the Bombay-Pune highway and cars were whizzing past as if they were in Budh – the Indian Formula 1 track. We were in a modest rickshaw and immediately my ante was up, I was fearful of the traffic.

Recently four executives on a joy trip fell into a river and all four died. What they thought was a road turned out to be a gradient going towards the river. All were strapped to their seats and they drowned. No wonder road accidents are the biggest killer in India. Around 1,42,000 people died in road accidents in India in 2011, which is high considering it is 11 per cent of the total accident fatalities in the world. When will we learn? Driving in India is a hazard, the reason, perhaps, why we don’t own a car.

For example see the way the following road is laid. While the bridge for the fast lane traffic to Pune should be on the right, it’s actually on the left. The detour to Belapur, which should have been on the left is actually, by some queer thinking, on the right. If a car on the fast lane wants to access the bridge (the highway to Pune) it has to cut across the traffic slowing down for Belapur, and the result would be a collision.
The fast lane traffic has to turn left to access the bridge on the left, while the slowing traffic for Belapur has to go right exit the highway.


Then, again, see the other side of the road. The fast traffic that should travel on the bridge to Bombay has to cut across the traffic slowing down for Belapur. We were travelling on this road, and thank God the rickshaw driver had his faculties in place. Or, God forbid, it would have lead to collision.  

The fast lane traffic has to turn left to access the bridge, while the slowing traffic to Belapur has to turn right.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Why We Consider Manna Dey a Better Singer than Kishore, Rafi, or, Yesudas

A few days ago singer Manna Dey passed away. Many consider him as a lesser singer, somehow, than Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi, or, for that matter Yeshudas. We feel different, which is the purpose of this post. We feel that he was a better singer than all these. Here's why we propose this, probably idiotic assumption. So forgive us tomato and rotten egg throwers, bongo babus, Yesudas die-hards and Mohammed Rafi lovers.

We will only take one song in Hindi and one in Malayalam that Dey sang. The Hindi song is "Jindagi Kaisi yeh Paheli" from the film Anand. Hear how easily he achieves the higher pitches and the lower pitches. One thing we notice is that he always ends his lines in a half note. This is a talent that none of the aforementioned triumvirate of singers ever had. Their songs are all either screamed at the top of the lungs, or, sung in a sad lower pitch. The purpose of music is to touch the heart and feelings and not to show off your vocal power, sorry, change it to vocal cord power.

The Malayalam song - the only one - which Dey sang was "Manasa Maine Varu" from the film Chemmeen, an all-time superhit. We doubt if Yesudas could have brought the feelings Dey brought to this song. Sorry, Yesudas fans, fawns, admirers, before you crucify me let me let me give my last testament.  Yesudas hardly varies his pitches and comes off as monotonous as Kishore and Rafi often do.  That’s why this song is a perennial favourite of all Malayalis. No Kairali Kala Mandalam function in suburban Chembur, or elsewhere, is complete without a singing of this song.

Then why wasn’t Dey given his due? Many feel that as a proud artiste he was isolated by his peers, as was singer Vani Jayaram and many other talented singers. This isolation of talented artists is the bane of Indian art and literature (oops!) which we strongly oppose. When he died nobody wrote a good obit of Dey listing his songs and its lilting musical qualities. (If somebody has done it, enlighten us!) We hope this humble post would do that job.


Hope we have made our point. Rest in peace Manna Dey in the great musical universe of beyond. Your songs will always live and grow in us.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

An Encounter with the King of the Reptilian World

Should we write about this? The whole of last night was spent worrying about this. Or should we leave this experience in its own happily-forgotten state? You know, the sort that goes away unobtrusively from consciousness. But when it stays with us and gets further reinforced, one thinks about offloading it somewhere.

So here it is.

We were returning from our morning walk yesterday, sweating, glad it was over. A small application on our mobile phone showed we had walked 2.5 kilometres and 3,500 steps. That will be enough for the hot morning, we decided, and descended a slight incline, a path, which led away from the mountains surrounding Artist Village. We were distracted and walking at the faster pace, now that we were done.

As we nearly finished the walk, and at the spot where the neatly-laid buildings and houses began, we moved a little to the side of the path and our eyes ran over a brown rope lying on the side. But the rope was moving, a slithery swift movement near us. The momentum had carried us past it and then we gazed back.

In one swift motion that can only be described as more than equal to a ballet dancer's it raised its hood, preparing to strike, if needed. It was a movement of warning, defensive, of preparing to defend onself, and we stared at it for a long time, transfixed by the beauty of the reptile.

Time froze.

Here's a rough sketch, since we didn't carry a camera.
Nag, cobra, moorkhan, the king of the reptilian kingdom was staring at us, as if we were the enemy, defending itself against its worst enemy. The gaze was challenging, unblinking. We were looking at a wonder of the whole animal kingdom, one that could inflict instant death. Yet, the movement, the graceful ascension on its coiled hind quarters was swift, matching the resplendency of a peacock spreading its tail. Now, we are a harmless sort who likes peace and walks away from conflict even to our own detriment, and what possible threat could it have seen in us. Yet, it was challenging us, this king of the wild, this dream of human beings, revered, respected, worshipped, and deified.

We stood there staring at certain death if we advanced, a helpless man, unarmed, looking at his worst enemy. It was only a warning and what an unspoken warning it was. Then we decided it was best to retreat, and let the king leave. We walked forward not taking our eyes off the magnificient object, and saw the hood slowly close, impercetibly, then resume its journey. We regretted not carrying our camera to picture this wonderful living being.

This happened yesterday and we can't forget it even today. The papers this day carries a story that human beings are wired to recognise a snake's presence and be alert. We certainly are. The incident left us shaking and we still remember the sight with a certain alarm.

Goodbye king! Hope we never see you again.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

We Are Back!

We are back, as said by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the terminator movie. But he said I will be back. What difference? None. 

At once all computers at home conked out. Our laptop, son's desktop, both decided to strike. Our laptop was beyond repair, the repair centre girl sweetly told us, noting the pain on our face. We realised then that laptops are delicate little things - like wives - and we were pretty rough on it. Our work and pictures and artworks were saved in disks and and something called "dropbox" which is amazing, so check it out. In the retired state that we are in, we can't afford to invest in a new laptop, though we hear the thingamajig costs a lot less than before. We had paid two salaries to buy our laptop and had starved to make ends meet. Well, ahem!

So, sonny has gone and upgraded his desktop, which working fine, thank you. Being a computer scientist he knows the insides of the scrawny thing we are writing this on. What we see as a mass or wires and blinking lights hold meaning to a computer scientist because, like a doctor, he can spot what is wrong. "The Hard Disk is corrupted," he says. While we know of corruption in high places we don't know what corruption has to do with computers. May be, the hard disk borrowed some money from the mother board and didn't pay it back. Which brings us to mother board, whoever thought of mother as a board is plain sick in his thinking apparatus. This one has a good stereo attached and listening to music is a wonderful experience. Not quite the experience we have had yesterday when we listened to the Bose stereo at Croma in Belapur. That music was so good, the guitar chords so pure, it brought tears to our eyes and a lump in the throat. (We always listen to guitar chords, as we play the instrument, at least, try to.)

Be that as it may, we were warned to be extra careful while using this desktop, don't download anything, said sonny. And who bought this contraption in the first place? Okay, we let it pass.

The landmark of our completing ten years of blogging has passed and no one took notice. We asked the newspapers who we know to do a story on us (so it will help with the novel) and none of them responded. Who wants to feature a pony-tailed blogger? Hm, the world has other things to do.

The pony-tail is growing fine despite the barbs aimed at it. We have drawn stares, comments, denunciations, anger, surprise, laughs over our pony-tail, which is also fine. Guess it will take some time to get adjusted to. Shahrukh sports one is our constant excuse. It looks different and writers should look different. We grew it to remind us that we have a novel to complete. We have not edited it for the last three days, which is being lazy. But our financial worries overtake our writing, which needs calm and intense concentration. Will we be able to give it (novel) that? What's the purpose of all this if it will be rejected? Should we go on? What difference will it - the novel - make. Will it alter our complacency, that smug all-knowing world where things are swept into the past without a thought? Does society need someone to document its stories? Isn't it futile considering there are hardly anybody who attends book readings? Aren't we wasting time as the industrial worker from the oil company living next door thinks. (He has a car, two bikes, a bungalow  lots of gold, Diwali bonus, what have you?)

A barrage of such questions almost floored us yesterday. Sometimes the loneliness of old age can be excruciating. Doubts can overcome one and cast a pall of gloom on our very existence. 

But we plod on regardless. As Ram Chander the securityman at the nearby newly-opened hospital in the neighborhood says, "din kat raha hai." We became acquainted on our morning walks. Meaning days are "being cut" from the gross total of our living days. That's a clumsy translation, but we will let it stand. We are hungry and lunch is waiting.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Thirteen-year-old Shilpa Runs Away from Home...

It's now five nights since thirteen-year-old Shilpa (name changed) left home. Without warning. We were stunned. It's one thing to read about such things in the newspaper and it's another thing to let to happen in your neighbourhood. Tongues started wagging: she has a boyfriend; how could she?; what does she know of life?; she is but a child; her parents doted on her; how could she betray all of us? So on, so forth.

The house filled with relatives. They came from all corners of the state, to find the little girl. They all looked shocked and stunned into silence. A police complaint was made, search teams were sent to all corners of the little New Bombay suburb. A small place, really. They couldn't find her. Neither could the police. The mother wailed, the father talked incoherently. Neighbours visited one by one to show their solidarity, offer words of consolation. They weren't consoled: how could she do this to us? She was the youngest and we loved her the most, fulfilled all her wishes. May be, we did the wrong thing by loving her. It was okay if a child ran away as she didn't get the love of her parents. But she was different, her father did all he could to keep her happy and spoilt as he loved his younger daughter the most.

Then what went wrong? It's said she had a boyfriend, a bad sort. May be, just may be, she eloped with him. He had already run away a few times and kept bad company. The boy became the villain and everybody cursed him. How could he do such a thing. His family was threatened.

The first two nights were sleepless nights, looking for her, searching for clues as to what must have happened. The police checked her cellphone number and found it was switched off. A phone call was traced to nearby location. Apart from that nothing, no clues. The parents became harried and harassed, the relatives started moralising. Instead of peace the family started arguing loudly. Neighbours were sympathetic to their plight when they argued through the night. Even they were shocked as they had young teenage daughters.

It's the entertainment industry, people said, she is a minor and has a boyfriend. We never had boyfriends at that age. Neither did we know anything about sex. Now every teenager knows. They have porn movies on their computers and they have cellphones to forward smut videos. It's a moral question not a criminal one, the neighbourhood know-it-all said. What happened to her on those two nights? Punishing her and him would do no good as they will go back to doing what they did before. But the boy should be taught a lesson.

On the third day Shilpa and the boy reported to the police station. It seemed his money had run out. They had gone to a party and since it ended late she was reluctant to go home. That's when they reported at the police station. The boy was taught a lesson. The girl was reluctant to go home so she went to live with an uncle in a distant place. The trauma had come to an end. The neighbourhood heaved a sigh of relief. Parents became more protective of their young girls. Remember Arushi?

Or, did it end? Who was responsible? What went wrong with a society that had lost control of its young people? Will counselling help? Will strictness and watchfulness help? Will they go back to doing what they did? If they did what should we do? There were a lot of questions asked and not many answers.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

At the mall

At the mall and its razzmatazz.

Onam suit

Here's proof that I can carry off Kerala's traditional dress of free dhoti and kurta, which, if worn well is the world's most comfortable dress. Am attired for an Onam feast. Do I look okay? Please comment.

Young girl sat on a bench in the mall crying!

Here's something heart-breaking heartless world. This young girl is sitting in a mall and crying! Tears amidst the tinsel and tawdriness?

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Peace.

(Wrote this after seeing disturbing images of the Syrian War on television. The poem [written as a song] is self-evident, so won't explain or exposition it here. Do please comment.)

There was peace here before the guns came
The birds used to sing before darkness became.

We had water to drink and food to eat
We had grains, vegetables, and even meat.

The days were peaceful, boring, and calm
And no nights of gunfire and napalam.

Our children went to school and men to work
Gunners didn't on street corners lurk.

Bring back those days; oh, bring them back
These difficult days are hard, bending our back.

We don't need your free clothes, food packets, and peace talks
We only need our freedom to take our children to the parks

Leaders, it takes a few hours to declare wars
But it takes people lifetimes to forget the scars.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Will Ranbir End Up Being Mannered As His Father and Grandfather?

Indian actors we have observed for three decades, ah, may be more, have a career graph that goes something as follows:

1. A good debut
2. A star is born
3. Success goes to his head
4. He becomes mannered

Almost all stars from Dilip Kumar to Rajesh Khanna to SRK have followed the above pattern, except, may be, a few like Aamir Khan. We haven't yet seen Besharam starring Ranbir Kapoor, but from what we have heard from the grapevine he will end up as mannered as his father and grandfather in acting. Yes, we liked the earlier Raj Kapoor and then he transformed into this mannered actor, as if he wasn't sure of himself. We also liked Rishi in his earlier days (remember Bobby, Khel Khel Mein, our coming of age movies), but then he too went for mannerisms of his father and uncles. Ranbir could be saved from mannerism, which, then, could go on to create a real good actor - a rare one - in Hindi filmdom. Somebody please save this newcomer because we see a lot of talent in him. This is the view of a dilettante, so it can be disregarded as pure blog fluffery.

Neways, we are bothered by the absolute lack of new ideas in Bollywood. They are making films to make the cash box ring, nothing original is dished out, it's always the rehashing of old ideas, ad nauseum. We watch a lot of films on UTV's World Movies and we would urge Bollywood directors to take time out and rest their swollen heads on cushions - if needed - and watch them days on end for inspiration. Oh my God! What great movies, what slick movie making. Today we saw "Janis and John" about a couple who do impersonation of Janis Joplin and John Lennon to fool a cousin into giving them money. Must say French movies are the best. Even the Polish movies have more polish (pun unintended) than ours.

Movies are all about story telling and if the story isn't right the movie will turn out to be trash. Really. We consider this as the absolute gospel truth, given what our critics might allege, our critics be damned. We need to pay for good stories and have good writers instead of hiring a hack to do a story in five days sitting in a five-star hotel. By the by, our neighbourhood scriptwriter is writing another story and we wonder what it will be all about. He is a talented film director who hasn't had a film so far, except for some Bhojpuri films. We wish him well.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

A Crying Shame: We Don't Have Good Copyeditors

We recently read a few pages of an anthology, one in which our short story was published. Then we put the book down and winced. Winced because there were a lot of mistakes, that even the most underpaid sub-editor (a tribe of which we used to be a member) would have discovered. We wondered if the copy has been "subbed" at all. That hurt us because it was our book, one we made our debut with. It made us feel like dirt. To our horror, we discovered later that these days publishers don't employ the tribe called "su-editors" or "copyeditors". They do an editing online and then it goes to press. There is lot of difference between editing online and correcting proof on paper. Online you tend to scan and not really read, many, many, errors thus get overlooked.

We think this was the horror story which was waiting to happen, putting the computer to work where it couldn't be of any help. A story that has killed the demand for good copy editors, which, partially, contributed to our downfall. The copy desk, once the privilege of well-read, all-knowing, grammar-proficient sub-editors who really controlled quality is now dead, as an institution or otherwise as a profession. That's why Indian novels turn out to be of atrocious quality, you turn away in disgust at the mistakes. Pick up a Bhagat or a Trivedi and you are spot on. Combined with this is the fact that there aren't anything called fact checking or research and the book becomes a poor cousin of those produced abroad.

In the mad scramble for releasing titles, publishing houses are forgetting a very important ingredient of the publishing process, the copy desk. No, this is not self glorification, this is the plain truth. Everyday we have to wince through the growing number of mistakes in newspapers and magazines and, believe us, the online media isn't free of them either. You don't have to skim deep enough, you will find the bloopers floating on the surface itself. I have a novel before me which begins "Only one death reported in the press," in the second line. It seems as if one death rose from some graveyard and reported itself to the newspapers concerned.

Don't worry, the meaning is clear, no? Why bother with grammar or syntax as long as meaning is clear? True not all writers (including us, yes, we need a lot of editing) are perfect, but a second opinion is what the publisher must seek and what could be better than the in-house second opinion of the sub-editor? I have worked under brilliant Chief sub-editors (the leader of the copy desk) who could point to a mistake though the entire team might have overlooked it.

Ah, those were the days! Could we bring them back please!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sitting in a Mall and Wondering What Went Wrong

Now that we are retired from corporate life - ostensibly for writing (ah well, the novel is chugging along) - we spend a lot of time in malls, just browsing, seeing the branding, reading books in the bookstores, and generally bumming around. We see a lot of branding material, which used to be what we were doing when we threw it all away to devote time to writing. We see displays, standees, shopsigns, shopfronts (vinyl, acrylic, plastic you name it), we see flexes featuring bloopers ("ends of season sale", "Upto 50% discount" and in a luxury brand store "100 % genuine leather"), we see them and think of our days in marketing. There were exhibitions, events, kiosks, promotional brochures (leaflets) to be written and designed, websites to be populated with content, ads to be written and released, all great fun till you burn out with the urgency of it all. Everything is wanted with great speed and accuracy, everything is decided at the last minute. And there were ad agencies and suppliers to be paid and kept happy, which they were not, a swollen-headed tribe that they are.

We were at this mall today and we see another veteran like us - a statesque grey-haired sardarji - also studying the landscape sitting on the bench where we sat. We wanted to reach out and ask what he did during his lifetime and how he is doing. But seeing the ominous silence he was enveloped in we demurr. May be, a tragedy has ocurred, may be, something he doesn't want to discuss. We let him alone and we sit in silence. People pass in different states of being occupied - mobiles, music, talking into their devices, playing games on tablets, texting, whatsapping, whatever that means. And there is silence, broken only by a toy train that whisks children around the mall, playing a tinny tune, resembling a real train's sounds. Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Good" had an entire verse on trains:

He used to carry his guitar in a gunny sack
Sit under the tree near the railway track
Engineers would see him sitting in the shade
Strumming to the rhythm the drivers made.

Well the song is our favourite and ranks among the top ten songs of all time, and Chuck Berry is a great singer. He is still alive. We like to imitate him singing the song but can't capture his vitality, his mojo, his stage presence. The singer in us has died.

Where were we? Okay, at the mall, we sit in silence, now that we are retired, studying life and what went wrong and how it could have been corrected. We - the Sardarji and us - aren't mobile addicts. We regret certain mistakes of our life, which might have, hypothetically, contributed to global warming, religious extremism, the recrudescence of superstition and blind beliefs in people's lives. In Nairobi, Kenya, a mall was attacked and people died. A mall as the one we were sitting. In India a man who fought superstition was killed. A cousin's son died at the age of 38 in a desert kingdom. What wrongs have we done to be thus?

What went wrong with the marketing and branding of our country that we have to think of selling our family jewels to save our currency? Are we no longer the outsourcing back office of the world? What went wrong? What?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Nation of Inconvenience Regretted People?

A funny thing happened to us just now. It's a known fact that financial institutions have the worst websites in the business. So, we are normally reluctant to visit them, knowing what we will get there as a prescience, sort of. Our reaction to such sites is AAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGG! 

Hence, we were prepared for disappointment when we visited this loan website and promptly got the message "The website is under maintenance till September 21, 1 p.m." Well, it's September 21, and it's 1.05 p.m. so we refresh again and still the same message persists, as it would, we assume, for a few days more. What's this? They should have probably added, "If the site isn't working inconvenience regretted." Which is the standard excuse trotted out. Are we a nation of inconvenience regretted people?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Ganesh Chaturthi and Onam Came and Went

A few thoughts for this week because of things of an emergency nature, well sort of. Our computers (desktop and laptop) decided to die on us and all hopes of getting it repaired were squashed by the computer fellow, a dour man of spare words, as the fraternity tends to be. We have no alternative but to use the neighbourhood cyber cafe where computer keyboards are often stuck because of children using them for gaming. Well, gaming is becoming huge and some days back they had this information of BBC that games sell more than feature films at their openings. Gawd! Here is technocommercialism at its worst, and the most affected are young minds. I have seen the types: know-alls, their hair like uncut grass, unwashed, noses and faces oily like a fish, clothed in atrociously faded jeans which show tears instead of hiding them.

Well, be that as it may. I may be wrong, they might be the rebellious generation that will make good in the end. But the way they are going they are most likely to end up in hospitals by the time they are in their forties. Don't say you read it here. Because some young people I am close to belong to that category.

Ah, hum! Ganesh Chaturthi came and went with the usual burst of noises. The neighbour had a Ganesh and we had to visit it and see the decorations. It was done nicely, and they were awake for five days playing cards and making a lot of noise in the process.

Then came Onam, the favourite festival of Malayalis. Onam, which is a celebration of sorts of Mahabali, the asura king of Kerala, comes during the harvest season and because of this it is a double whammy. Mahabali, being an asura, is not worshipped, however, the one who sends him to the underworld - Vishnu in the avatar of Vaman - is an object of adulation during this time. It is said that Mahabali was a benevolent dictator in whose reign the subjects saw prosperity and goodness all around, and because of this the Gods became jealous.

Onam, rather elaborate in rituals, actually starts 10 days before the actual day, and goes on for another 4 days making it a total of 14 days of celebrations. Today being the third day after Onam is called Poorittathi and tomorrow is Utharittathi which the last day on which snake boats race in the rivers of God's Own Country. The festival is also a celebration of vegetarian food and no non-vegetarian food is not supposed to be eaten. We don't know whether the old ardour still exists in the celebrations. Today, in the whisky-and-arrack-sodden countryside of Kerala it's more of drinks and non-vegetarian food that is being consumed.

An Onasadya consisting of more than 25 dishes is a treat to the palate and, on Sunday the local Kairali is celebrating Onam with a grand Sadya - feast - containing these delicacies of Kerala. We are eagerly looking forward to it.
The Pookalam, or, Rangoli made from flower petals, is an integral part of Onam celebrations.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Technocommercialism and Its Pernicious Effects - Johnathan Franzen

J
ohnathan Franzen writes in this article what we have been writing here all along, though with less clarity, we guess.

We have railed and ranted against technocommercialism and how the media in collusion with technocrats were destroying our lives. He has based the above-mentioned article on a satirist of Austria named Karl Kraus, whose criticism of the society around him got him the moniker of "The Hater." We like this. He absolutely hated everything. He didn't live to see the Third Reich and what followed, or, he would have dipped his pen in vitriol and probably obviated the need for World War II.

Today we think of nothing else but the latest mobile phones and gadgets and how to get them. We sit and watch sports for hours but won't lift a finger to avoid a crime. We would go on a holiday to a sea resort but wouldn't visit our aged relatives. All this, we say, is the result of technocommercialism.

And the perpetrators are there for all to see. They address the company's annual sales meetings with great fanfare and drama. They reward their salesmen with drink parties that last well into the night.

In the end what is achieved? We have become insular, we have become withdrawn, and we complain when something drastic happens in the neighbourhood.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

In the Aftermath of the Nirbhaya Verdict

We don't like this attitude of the electronic media. (We are saying this because we watch a lot of television news these days, one of the high points of our miserable lives.) The media goes into overdrive when there are protests, and announces that a verdict will be out soon. There are clips of stones thrown, tear gas shells lobbed, frenzied debats and after the storm abates when the real verdict is announced, there is a brusque-kind-of announcement and then silence. There is no analysis, no details, the issue is dead and buried. We guess that's where electronic media fails. Whereas, look at the print media. There are analyses and comments of all types, choose what you want. There is a plethora of opinion, go ahead, choose what you want. We like this aspect of the print media.

The electronic media goes where the noise is crazy, the din is unbearable, and heated discussions are generated. It is almost silent when the protesters have gone home. So this media is some kind of skimming service for news, a sort of fisher of news. So anything that doesn't make appropriate noises is ignored. Periliously close to "fisher of compliments" but we will let it be.

Look at the Nirbhaya gang-rape verdict. While a lot was made about the case, when electronic media sat in judgement over the details, after the verdict, there is silence. Of course, the bloody thing is golden, but we need some views and analyses. Why does rape happen. For example, in some obscure part of the newspaper we read that there were around 1200 rapes in Delhi alone in the past year. Shocking? Yes, it indeed is. Has any media tried to analyse the circumstances of these cases, found any similariites among them, drawn any conclusions? No, it seems.

Why are juveniles so attracted to rape. Is it because of our entertainment media? Or, are they addicted to easily-available porn on the net. Then the whole premise on which Bollywood is based is wrong. Also television reality shows and other shows where minors are brought to sing their hearts out, or cook their stomachs out, are very, very, wrong. In Britain recently there was a debate about whether schooling should start at age seven. Here children are competing on television at that age. 

We would suggest that media pundits should think about this.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Death

We have made the morning walk an integral part of our regimen. On today's perambulation around our home we learnt that a local former corporator's wife had died. A crowd had gathered among which was the corporator who is an acquaintance. So we sat with the mourners to show solidarity and sympathy for the family.

The local drunk was present, who was asking for money from the corporator, and he was shooed away by the big man's henchmen. A few men who have illusions about their greatness also joined, you know, the sort who dominate housing society meeting, and make representations to the corporation. They wore white safari suits or white shirts, the colour of mourning. It was interesting to see the party power-play at work. The corporator who hails from a village close to our native place in Kerala had made the transition to New Bombay rather nicely and was known for his good work to the locals. They all belong to the party helmed by a "bhau (brother)", who is quite a powerful man in the area.

Another corporator from a nearby constituence came and in a big sports utility vehicle, causing a flutter, but our corporator didn't give her any respect. He didn't budge from his seat. This lady had a regal bearing fit for Maharanis and had the imperiousness of somebody in power. This was evident in the number of people who immediately rushed to receive her. There were jokes and camaraderie in the place where the mourners sat, quite inappropriate, we think, to the occasion.

Anyway, we sneaked out as more and more people arrived and the place became akin to a political meeting, or, rally, whatever.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Are We Going into Stagflation?

Another week and a few thoughts to share here, our beloved platform, well, sort of. Now that the threat of the world ending with a bang is over - temporarily - we can relax. If the big O from the big A had bombed Syria then Russia might have retaliated and there would have been a nuclear war. The two earlier world wars have ocurred over trivial matters and the next one could, as well.

Be that as it may, we think it's stagflation that is facing us. Stagflation is when good aren't available in the market due to high transportation and other costs - tax for example - and, consequently, products disappear from shelves. Prices of merchandise rise, stagflation results. That's what wifey is facing now. She went to the market to buy vegetable and had to pay Rs 30 for a half kilo of cabbage. God help us if stagflation is on us. Since the costs are high people will stop buying, resulting in high inflation and stagnation of the market. This is our humble understand of the dreaded word.

Brazil, Russia, and Zimbabwe are countries that faced stagflation. Here prices of essential groceries shot up, and, sort of, adding insult to injury, these needful essentials weren't available in the market, even if one had the money. People in these countries would go around with big bags on their shoulders and soon as they saw something they would latch upon it and buy. Hope we don't come to that stage, yet.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Happy Teacher's Day Saramma-saar!

Teachers Day. Well, it brings a lot of memories back on lazy ethereal wings. But one stands starkly in our mind as a defining moment, something we can't forget. We were born in Kerala and spent eight years of our life there. Those days kintergarten in Kerala meant squatting on the floor and writing on the sand spread before us, to the satisfaction of the cruel and sadistic old teacher. Homework was carved on palm leaves with a sharp instrument called "narayam." Woe to those who didn't do their homework, as punishment included beating with a stick and pinching with sand stuck to the teacher's fingers.

We were admitted to this class rather early, and naturally, we were one of the biggest malingerers around. Our mater, being a teacher of craft herself, thought starting early would be good. But we thought otherwise. We wanted to enjoy our life at home, lazing in the fields and looking at the bees. We felt school was a waste of our time. (From then till now we have not figured out what our school was meant for, except to pick up language skills. All our other classes and time were wasted on us, we still can vouch. Our education was mainly done by us, ourselves.) Our malingering would have got on our mamma's nerves as one day she decided enough was enough and took the matter into her hands. She escorted us with a stick, freshly cut from a bush, de-leafed and all, and then when she would turn back, thinking we were walking to school, we would turn back and walk towards her. Ruthless punishment would follow and the stick would be applied all over our body, rather mercilessly. The pain, we do feel, even now. This process of our walking ahead a little and turning back and being beaten would repeat several times, and, as many times we would get thrashed relentlessly. We cried, bitter tears, for mercy, but no mercy was shown by mother, with whom we kept a grudge all our lives for that incident.

Then as this process seemed a never-ending progression, along came Saramma-saar. She asked what was going on. When mother told her, she scolded her, hugged us, took us by the hand and with kind words of encouragement led us to school. From then on we had no fear of going to school, though we were not a very good student. It was just that act of kindness from our teacher that changed our attitude altogether to school and education. This incident underscores the need for teachers to be kind.

This teacher's day we remember Saramma-saar with fondness. Happy teacher's day Saramma-saar, wherever you are.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

On Gareth Bale's Signing for 100 Million Euros

After the outrage we felt about the support a rapist received from a conservative people - my fellow men - we feel outraged over one other thing. The obscene amounts paid to football stars.

These days we watch a lot of football. It's a good game full of tension and excitement, unlike cricket, which is only interesting at times, i.e., when India plays Pakistan and Zimbabwe plays Bangla Desh. The reason is a 32 inch television that almost obliterates one wall of our modest house. Our son, of course, paid for it, as we are destitute, after resigning from our job. Our three credit card companies are baying for our blood like unfed Himalayan wolves. Well, the things we splurged on are rotting in different cupboards, now that we don't go to work anymore - Arrow shirts, Allen Solly trousers, Celio jackets, the works.

So it is upsetting to read that Gareth Bale has been paid 100 million Euros by Real Madrid. We like Real Madrid, it's one of our favourite teams, but 100 million? 100 million to backpass those cute footballs and strike it into the net? 100 million when people in several countries are starving. This is roughly a thirty-secondth part of the budget of Bombay. Isn't this figure obscene when writers like us are starving - well, not starving exactly, but struggling.

Would (rather, could) Gareth pass on the bucks for something, which is believed, he doesn't rightfully deserve, to this struggling writer?

Monday, September 02, 2013

Is Rape by a Person in Power Condone-able?

We are one of the few people who don't understand our fellow countrymen. Really. We have got out moral priorities upside down. 

The hoo-hah over the many rapes that came to light in the past few months had barely died down - just because the media drew attention to them - than we see demonstrations of people supporting an alleged rapist, who, incidentally happens to be a man claiming to be god. We see girls and women - the victims of sexual harassment all their lives - on the road blocking traffic, and lending support to an alleged rapist. 

So is rape by a godman okay with us? The question baulks our mind. After evading arrest for a long time the alleged rapist is now in jail. God - I mean the almighty - alone knows if he will be convicted.

There have been allegations of rape by politicians, godmen, and corporate czars, which have all been swept under the carpet. How many have been convicted? Of course there is no statistics, if at all. Our mistaken awe of people in power continues. "Malik, maine aap ka namak (or, whatever) kyaya hai," seems to the operative assumption here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Miley Cyrus Act

Call us retard, or out of touch, or whatever your sanguine heart would have us be labelled, we got to see Miley Cyrus' act only today. Hm. 

Now singers are a different breed altogether, that's why they are so crude and manage to get attention. Cyrus, by the by, did what was unpredictable, and abominable, in our opinion. Like the Indian item song routine each new song (or performance) tends to overstep what the other guys have done, thereby escalating the obscenity factor. Of course pop stars don't bring up children so they don't have to think about what effect the gestures would have on an unsuspecting generation. They would love it, as is their wont, but would they become better people, we doubt. The absolute slide in moral standards start with acts such as these, be aware and be forewarned.

Be that as it may, it has created a celebrity out of Miley Cyrus. Who has heard of her, not us. Now her albums will sell like that of Lady GaGa. In this world of ours the more the scandalous, the better it is. We don't have to exercise moral judgement anymore. Just go ahead and do it and become a celebrity, the bungalow on Sunset Boulevard with tennis court and swimming pool will soon follow. Provoke them, insult them, be obscene with them and they will make you into a celebrity, and will write about you in their scandal sheets. 

Because that's what the world has become, son!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Has Society Stopped Accepting the Lover?

Now that the dust has settled and the culprits have been caught, we are still shocked by the implications, nay, the nature of the rape of the journalist in Bombay. What resemblance does it have to the Delhi rape case, except that both were gang rapes, when multiple men rape a single woman.

Yes, both women were accompanied by men. Escorts. It's a well accepted fact all over the world that women with men - probably lovers, or spouses - be left well alone. Society affords its lovers their peace, to settle their own quarrels and talk their own language of love. Doesn't it?

But it seems it doesn't, at least, not in India. In both the rapes the women were accompanied by men, lovers or otherwise. Both men were threatened and traumatised before the women were subjected to their cruelty. 

Doesn't society accept its lovers? Those creatures of whom poems and novels are written. It is a society that has gone bad that doesn't accept vulnerable lovers, so we think. The signs are already out, the proclamations made. Make it known from roof tops and at village squares. Peet the dindoras.

Meanwhile for Nirbhaya another tear is shed, another totem pole demolished. Nothing has been learnt and nothing will be.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Oh, These Pakistanis! An Independence Rant.

Since the independence day has come and gone - though it was quite drizzly in New Bombay - a few thoughts and ruminations.

It's not right to be gloomy on this happy day, so I will start with something good. But, ugh, there is no good news to share. One remains optimistic through the grind of bad news, however, there's hardly any good news to go by, to share. Sorry, folks!

A submarine blew up after we announced proudly that we have constructed our own nuclear submarine. Could anything worse happen? Well, we also had launched our own aircraft carrier. However, the only news carried on the big boss of reporting BBC was of the submarine blowing up. Guess the Brits are cross because we decommissioned the HMS Hercules, which was what Vikrant was known as before we acquired it.

Be that as it may, we are in the market for submarines, and we can judge another scandal coming. Fellas, leave this transaction alone, I say. Because it's disconcerting to read about Liju's death after two months of his wedding. Look what dreams he carried to his watery grave. What happened? Who was at fault?

The Paks are very cunning people. That we know since our Saudi days. We had a lot of Pakistanis in the company we worked. They were all pretty decent in behaviour, except when it came to jingoism and chest thumping. "Thum Char Sau ko Hum Char Bus Hai." They would say. To this taunt our Sardarji watchman would say, "Saley thum hazaron ko hum ek bus hai." Bravo. Who started it?

Yes such was their jingoism and misplaced patriotism. So it's no wonder that after killing five jawans the Pakistani parliament passed a resolution condemning India's aggression. You must give it to them, surely, something like the Oscar of Demented Parliamentarians. Tomorrow, Pakistan will attack us with nuclear weapons and allege that we started the fight, they will fix matches and say we lost the game, they will invade Gujarat and say we captured Punjab. So, be warned and prepared for anything.

Enough for one Independence day. Sorry, we couldn't dwell about dollar prices, gold, American visas and such like. We will give them separate treatment in future episodes. Bye, and be good.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Snowden, Durga Shakti, and Antony, What Else? Saturday Musings.

It's another weekend and we, I mean our fingers, are itching to write another post here, this sacred space. The promotion we are planning for the completion of 10 years of blogging is underway. However, health concerns, certain anxieties prevent us from going full steam ahead. Do please, please watch out for it though.

So, Snowden is in Russia and Obama goes on to announce that he is not interested in snooping into the lives of us netizens. Then why is the Indian version of PRISM so zealous about applying cyber rules to ordinary citizens as seen in the Shaheen Dadha case? We do a double take when it comes to rules, don't we? Snooping on private citizens is, we maintain, an invasion of privacy. After all, a post on Facebook is not expressing ones views on a public platform, it is just an expression of views to a list of people on the forum who are friends. That's why Facebook classifies people in ones list a "friends." Now when has expressing an opinion to friends been a crime?

That said let's consider the Durga Shakti case. It is shameless the way a public servant is suspended based on unverified information and charges. Our politicians do jump the gun to receive media coverage, sure, but should they have gone to this extent? Then all public servants would become the menial servants of ministers, and of what use is their expertise and knowledge? Sand mining is a dangerous threat to our environment and what are we doing about it? When a public servant speaks up, this is what he/she gets.

The rain is still causing havoc in the country and all we can think about is our petty-minded little cover-ups and white washing. AK Antony failed so miserably in handling the case of the Jawans killed by Pakistani forces that he had to retract his statement. Has the former chief minister of Kerala lost face? True he has introduced a lot of reforms for the men in uniform. They have better salaries and better pensions now. But, should he have made that intemperate comment?

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Since We Said We Would Post about Our Beard

And since we promised to post our beard on fb here it be, growing rather nicely! Since Amitabh's beard makes headline stuff, we thought this could be our own headline stuff. Uff!

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Announcement: We Have Completed 10 Years of This Blog

We are proud to announce: this blog completes ten years of continuous blogging this month. Phew! We set about it in August 2013 and, what shall we say, it has been a rewarding and frustrating experience. Sometimes the post would appear sometimes it would disappear and we would wonder what happened. And, other times, we would read the blog and it would be full of bloopers. Then we would go and hastily press the delete button.

We are glad we did it,though it has had its frustrating moments. We were writing short stories and a novel.Yes, and poems too. All this made it too hectic. But we think the worst has passed, and good things are coming.

Gratified to know that no one abused us, or said an unkind word about our blog. Thank you readers, do come back again and again.

After two months of heavy rain the sun finally came out. So we took this picture standing at the door. Then we went for a walk and sun on our skin felt good. Feeling rejuvenated somehow, which portends some good things, hopefully.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

On the Subject of Education and Healthcare: Some Random Musings

Last Sunday's Times of India has an interview with Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on how India is lagging being because of its neglect of education and healthcare. We, as someone marginally related to the field (wifey is a teacher, I have run around for sonny's admission to colleges), can comment on both these vital services which the government has bungled.

We take the example of Kerala, a state that is foolhardily important to us. Our brother-in-law is a government-appointed teacher there. He has a good life, a good salary, a car, a house, property from which he gets a monthly income, and will retire with a handsome pension which will rid him of all worries of the future. But he is not a happy man. Why? Because every year, come admission time, he makes around 100 frantic visits in his car to get students for his class. Only around six of them join, after much coaxing (free books, uniforms, mid-day meal, holidays) which is what they need to run a class. His worry is that if he doesn't get so many students the government will close the school.  In the same state there is rush for admission to private English-medium schools, where the admission rate is around Rs 30, 000 for a student. Come hail or high water these students from well-to-do families will not join a government school.

The government has spent crores of rupees on buildings and playgrounds and, yet, the schools are empty. Much the same thing happens in cities also. The craze is for education in a private institution, whatever their dictats (Which among other things include: donations, activity fees, tuition fees, and sundry other ways of drawing blood). These schools somehow manages to get good teachers and principals. And, also, their performance is measured by their results.

Now our questions are these:

Why can't the government schools get good teachers and principals, considering the pay is so good?

Why can't teachers with proven skills join government schools after a certain age? This is considering the government doesn't offer employment if a person is above the age of thirty.

If the results are good, and a good education is coming from government schools, will fidgety parents send their children to government schools?

Why can't the government be strict in evaluating its teachers and sacking a few (relegate them to desk jobs) if they don't perform?

Now on the subject of health care:

Many moons and many suns ago, when we were suffering from an ailment we saw an ad in the lobby of a nearby government-subsidised hospital stating that free medicines are availabe there for the ailment. We approached the desk and asked for those medicines. The clerk immediately came and took away the poster saying those medicines were no longer available. Some weird logic this! So where do all the free medicines given by the government go? You guessed it.

Recently, we had to undergo a surgery in a private hospital and spent Rs 80,000 on it. We put a claim for the amount with our insurer and were paid only Rs 20,000. Reason? We took an air-conditioned room with a television. The only reason we took that room was because it had a western toilet. But my semi-government insurance company woulddn't listen. We didn't have the energy to fight.

When we talk of free healthcare, which is a given in developed countries, our country fares very badly. We are dependent on private practitioners such as the private practitioners of education we mentioned above. We don't trust government-run hospitals because the staff there are rude and crude and are only doing a government job.

Now our questions are these:

Why don't people trust a government hospital where treatment is supposed to be free?

Why don't the government sack doctors and nurses who don't perform and, instead, give jobs to good nurses and doctors who have good private practises?

Where are the free medicines given by government to hospitals going?

Why can't the government pest control its hospitals? Some time ago we visited a colleague in a government hospital and was told that he can't sleep at night because of the bites of bed bugs.

Why can't the government which is getting so much money from software and outsourcing exports earmark some money to build clean, efficient, and effective healthcare system as even countries like China and Brazil have done.

Why does the common man have an inborn fear to approach a doctor, any doctor? People have lost their homes and entire savings trying to save sick relatives.

Has the government any answers to these questions? If they have I would like to know about them.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Another Weekend: Sujit Nair's Story

Just another weekend and we thought we would share some things on this blog, our own sacred space, our own world we inhabit.

We have got a job after a long time in a small advertising agency started by our friends and former colleagues. We are there as the copy person, so we can work at home and only go out for meetings. That suits our working style though our novel may be delayed.

Also, we are working in advertising which pays rather well. Our friend Sujit was one such, a ponytailed copywriter with our agency of the time. We envied his ponytail, which was thick and lustrous. He told us he drew a salary of Rs 4 lakh a month. We were incredulous. How can it be possible? With that kind of money he might be having a dream life.

No, all wasn't hunky dory in his life. He lived in an upscale area which cost a bomb, his wife and daughter left him because of his drinking problem. Yes, he drank. He invited us several times for a drink and we told him that drinking is not good for him, as we ourselves had given up the habit.

But habits die hard. Very soon he was in trouble and had to be admitted to hospital. The man who admitted him was his agency head, not his wife or his father. At hospital he made progress and soon was discharged with the admonition that he should give up drinking, which was spoling his liver.

He came to our office for meetings looking pale and emaciated. He jokingly called us "Jesus Christ," for whatever reasons we don't know. Being Mallus we shared a few Mallu jokes (or jocks as a Mallu would say). He was a fountain of jokes and sayings and we loved all of them.

Then his agency head called us one day to announce the death of Sujit. He had started drinking again and this time the drinks took him. We were shocked. How can it be? It can't be, surely he was there somewhere and this must be some kind of prank.

But truth was, he was dead. Though highly paid he had an unhappy life. One of his last jokes went thusly:

An ad man after dying went to heaven. God gave him the choice of heaven or hell. St. Paul showed him heaven and Satan showed him hell. In heaven he was shown a few men in white with some angels playing the harp. Then Devil took him to hell where men in white had scotch in their hands and the angels were playing hard rock.

So the ad man chose hell, seeing as how he loved drinking. But when he was led deep into hell he saw fire, icy mountains, and weird creatures. Drinks were not available, not even water.

"This is not what you showed me," he told Satan.

"Oh, that was just the advertising and marketing, this is the truth."

Rest in peace Sujit, my friend.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

India's Population Will Cross 1.5 Billion by 2100

Just read something shocking, and the accompanying graph (Sorry couldn't upload the graph as it was some other file type. However, it is available on the link above.) was still more awe-inducing to our queasy heart. See the graph herein. It says that in 2030 India's population will overtake that of China's and, horrors, will be 1.5 billion in 2100. 

Hm. Haw. Heck, that's worrisome to us. And to think that most of the 1.5 billion will live in cities, without water supply and sewerage. Son, what a world have we given you to inherit? While the population of U.S. and European countries will plateau (as many dying as being born) India and Nigeria would boom with people. What is fueling this reproductive frenzy, is it the climate change, is it the movies? Well, we don't know, we can't answer that.

But we can answer this: should population be curbed, controlled? Yes, yes, yes. Do something right away.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

On the Subject of Treyvon Martin

This makes us sick, really. We thought the U.S. to be a decent country where people of colour were respected. Seems Lester Chambers, a blues singer was assaulted on stage during a show. Well, we thought racism was done in the country and only the remnants existed in red-neck country of the south. No, it seems. Treyvon Martin is another victim in the long line of victims who were lynched or beaten to death in this great country professing equality of all people. A teenager, he was walking back to his house after visiting a store when the gun-wielding George Zimmerman shot him, in cold blood. He has done the right thing according to supremacists across the world, but we chafe, we cry for these crimes of utter human hopelessness. Zimmerman was acquitted as there weren't any eye witnesses to the incident, or, were they chicken to come out?  Are all black teenagers wearing hoodies criminals? We simmer with anguish, but we don't know how to protest this atrocity on humanity. Will justice be done, if at all? Who elected a white jury to try the murderer of a back teenager?

After black man Rodney King was beaten by policemen in a similar incident, he asked, "Can we all get along?" No. It seems the answer is no. The U.S., an assylum of contentment and opportunity for many is not a safe place for dark-skinned people. Blacks constitute 13 per cent of the U.S. population while whites are 77 per cent. So they are a majority and even if only half of them are racists they outnumber the blacks. Does it help that the president of the country is half black?

 The shooting of Treyvon Martin opens a can of worms, all well-fed and bigger than rats. To what extent people will go to prove that they are superior to others. A matter of skin collour (which we battle with in my novel Mr. Bandookwala, MBA, Harvard) is the biggest bane of humanity and will take it down the path of perdition, or, something near it, we are sure. The roots of this discrimination lies deeper than the thick skin of centuries slave traders and racial oppressors.