Archive for August, 2009

Enter Arun Shourie! He blurts out his dialogue, pointing at Rajnath Singh, “Alice in blunderland…..humpty dumpty”. As he leaves the stage, we can also hear his soliloquy, “you guys, it is my turn to steal the show”. Tomorrow it will be somebody else. Make hay while the sun shines, the television crew seems to say as they fish in the troubled waters.  The bewildering rank and file of the BJP is hopelessly watching the scene not knowing what will be the fate of their beloved party; but the leaders are more concerned of their own popularity, come what may.

After all, the party failed to get enough seats to form a government, but isn’t it a major opposition party in a country where there are umpteen parties? Its leaders have betrayed the faith reposed in the party by millions. They must be ashamed of themselves for being childish and self-centered.

Gossip in the workplace

“Selvi has run away with that guy”

“Yeah, her Daddy is angry….can’t say what will happen.”

The two female labourers were chatting in shrill voice while they were passing on cement-sand mix. I was passing along that way when I heard the scandal. Eager to know what it was about, I stopped there for a while, pretending that I was waiting for somebody. “That means you don’t know the latest. Manickam has saved her. That chap was beaten to pulp”, this time this was a male voice. He was the one who was preparing the cement-sand mix. Even as I was eager to know where this incident would’ve occurred, there was silence for a while. And the females were talking about someone else. One of them said, “At last Ramalingam gets a job. Now he can marry that arrogant girl”. “Oh that 9 O’clock stuff, I don’t watch it”, the male voice interrupted….and I moved on. So that was the matter.

These labourers were talking about the TV serials they had watched the previous night, now that there is not a single house in Tamil Nadu that does not have a TV set. May be that is the reason why the labourers are no longer grim faced and quarrelsome while they are working.

CLOSE ON THE HEELS OF JASWANT-JINNAH EPISODE

As expected by some of us and as desired by Mr Jaswant singh, he is getting wide publicity. Politicians, historians and the public, to some extent are sitting glued to the TV to watch the reactions of various leaders. The BJP leaders are busy defending themselves against accusations from Mr Jaswant Singh.

Even as the air is thick with heated debates based on Jaswant’s book, another book has managed to get an unexpected boost. The title of the book is “INDIA: From midnight to the millennium and Beyond” by one Mr Shashi Tharoor. It seems he has written his version of political developments in India since independence. Apart from the fact that he is highly critical of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, the book seems to contain the usual stuff… the biased views that we have heard, off and on, from the leaders of the rival parties. Here and there, this author has made some sarcastic comments about the members of the Nehru family. These people are totally one-sided and are always on the look out for black spots but the millions who supported the Nehru dynasty saw only the brighter side which was huge and lovely. But, inspite of his adverse and sarcastic criticism about the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, Mr Tharoor is in the congress and is friendly with Ms Sonia Gandhi and family. The ongoing debate seems to have touched upon these facts.

Food shortage: Some stop-gap remedies

Monsoon failure in several parts of India has resulted in food shortage. The central government is flooded with demands from certain states to declare several districts drought affected so that the farmers and the poor people could receive some monetary benefits or food items at concessional rates from government-run stores. But very often it is the high and mighty who corner a large chunk of allotted food items because there is no effective mechanism to monitor the distribution of rice, wheat and cereals. The traders find such situations as an opportunity to make quick money. They resort to hoarding and create artificial scarcity.

Those at the helm of affairs must realize that this is just a passing phase and could be managed by enforcing certain strict rules aimed at restricting lavish spending on feast and dinner parties by the rich and the upper middle class, as had been done in the 40s and 50s when there had been severe food shortage. When the demand for essential commodities is curtailed the artificial scarcity created by the traders will disappear.

Since the above said rules will have to be in force only for a short period the rich and the middle class people would not mind abiding by the government rules-even friendly appeal to these people will produce the desired effect.

Regaining popularity, Jaswant style

If you were a popular singer, not long ago, and you are struggling to recapture your popularity which has taken a nose dive there are umpteen ways to regain the same. If you are in politics, you have to desert your party and cross-over to the rival party or make some statements which will upset your party leaders and ensure your dismissal and wide coverage by the media.

But soon you will wither into oblivion. So if you want to capture the public attention for a longer time you have to publish a book, but make sure it has something to do with history and politics, the distorted version rather. It should shock your friends and foes alike. Mr. Jaswant Singh did exactly the same thing. As you might know, he is one of the leaders of India’s BJP which right now worried about its own popularity.

The title of his book is “Jinnah, India and Partition”. He was wise enough to distort the facts to such an extent that it surprised not only India but Pakistan as well. The whole world knows that Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and Co were the real architects of India’s freedom and Jinnah was the force behind the partition of India but Jaswant Singh turned everything upside down to make his “story” sensational. “Jinnah was demonized by India”, says he with an eye on regaining his own fading popularity. So friends Jinnah is the hero of this book….the very same Jinnah who looked down upon the “Hindi speaking, khadhi clad peasants” who stood by Gandhiji in his historic non-violent struggle for India’s freedom…….the very same Jinnah who paved the way for India’s partition. The latest news is that Mr. Jaswant Singh has been expelled from the party.

Linguistic fanaticism in India

One unique thing about India is its immense diversity. The people and their culture, their language, the way of dressing, the food habits and so on differ from state to state. On top of this, there are innumerable castes and almost all the religions of the world. Occasionally, clashes breakout between different castes or between religions but as a whole there is a binding force, which keeps the flock together. Language is a potential troublemaker. There was a dim hope that the people would accept Hindi and English as the link languages, but in due course, other languages had to be accommodated. It is quite natural that a country as big and diverse as India cannot manage with a couple of languages for the purpose of communication but it should be for a limited purpose. For example, some members of parliament would be at home if they speak in their own mother tongue. May be it was with this in view that as many as 22 languages are listed in the 8th schedule of the Indian constitution but when it comes to exams conducted by the public service commission it should not exceed two or three languages. Besides this, the languages which are included in the 8th schedule will have to be accommodated in the currency notes as well! As of now, there are as many as 22 languages that come under this category. Now, there is fresh demand to include 38 more languages in the 8th schedule and the government has kept mum on this issue. What we see now is linguistic fanaticism and not love and respect for one’s mother tongue as such. If those who put forward such demands are really in love with their languages, they should encourage their people to come out with brilliant literary work in their languages and get them translated into other languages so that their mother tongue will gain more popularity.

You too, animals?

 “Mamool” is not the monopoly of the human beings. By the way, it is a widely used word in some parts of India. In other areas, there may be some other words but the practice is the same. It is something like tips in English but not exactly the same. It is not bribe, as such but something similar to it. For example, if the postman shows undue respect to you and humbly says, “Sir, there’s a money order for you” and politely obtains your signature, that means he expects “something” from you (Oh, now I remember! “Something” is another word for mamool). He would hang around there for a few minutes with a smile till you shell out something. This practice is rampant in government offices.

You go to a relevant section in a govt. office to hand over a petition or an application to the clerk concerned and he would scratch his head, thereby implying that if you would give him some money, it will receive his immediate attention.

You will have to forgo a small amount when you remit an electricity or a telephone bill. “Sorry, no change” is his routine way of extracting two or three rupees from you. If you are smart enough you’ll remit the exact amount without giving the clerk and opportunity to say “Sorry, no change”. By now, you might have got an idea about mamool. But I said it was not the monopoly of human beings. Some animals too are in the habit of taking mamools! They are straight forward and if you are not cruel, you would oblige them. Normally, it is the monkeys who exhibit human tendencies. If by any chance, some one gives the monkey a banana or some other fruit, he will almost snatch from our hand and disappear but in a jiffy he’ll reappear, stretching his hands. If no one responds, he will be on that very spot, the next day. Then, we have those pet animals like cats and dogs who could be included in this category. But, to my surprise, I learnt that even the decent-looking cows belong to this category. The other day, while I was sipping tea at a small restaurant, a hefty cow stood at the entrance and announced its presence with a loud “IMBAAY”. None, except me, was surprised. “Give her something,” said the shop owner and the waiter thrust into the cow’s mouth some leftovers. When I looked at the owner with a smile, he said “Nothing to fear, she has come for the mamool ________yeah, he used the very same word!

An appeal to North Korea

Science and technology

I salute thee with both hands

Thou hath made the world small

Curtailed the distances drastically

Oh scientists, the magicians are on the run

Their magics have vanished into thin air

Your contribution to journalism has no parallel

Be it a war or a football match

No matter where it occurs

All we need to do is to click a button

Oh my! it is on the screen!

But scientists, there ought to be actors

Or rather the journalists as they are known

Rain or shine, war or beer summit

Football or cricket or an illicit affair

They are there, risking their lives

Some of them are females,

That too from some other continent

They are as daring as men or even more

They would’ve entered forbidden lands

But forgive them for they do things

At great risk and not for them

That’s why I appeal to North Korea

Oh sir, be kind enough to release Laura Ling and

Euna Lee.

They should not languish in jail

But visit places and keep us informed

I am behind Bill Clinton

Why there must be thousands who pray for their release.

Tourism in Ooty: the changing phases

Ooty, the queen of hill-stations, is an important tourist destination. But she is no longer the green clad elegant lady on seeing whom you would feel like reciting Marlo’s immortal lines, “was this the face that launched a thousand ships?” On the contrary, the poet in you gives way to the humorist in you and you might whisper, “houses, houses everywhere and not a patch of green.” Yet people pour in…..people from all over the world, may be because other qualities of this hill-station are still there. The tourists reach for their warm clothes as soon as they cross the magnificent valley view, especially if it is early morning or after the sunset.

 On reaching Ooty, the main agenda of the tourists is making arrangement for sight-seeing. Some of them have their own vehicles and others have to hire a taxi or an auto-rickshaw. But the fares differ for the same distance. If you are a local chap, it is a normal charge, for those from the neighboring states it is slightly higher. For those from north India it is still higher but if you are a foreigner it could be two or three times as much as the normal. Till recently, it was so. But now, the foreigners, especially those from Europe or the US have learnt to bargain. “How much?”, a girl asks. “50 rupees”, pat comes the reply. “That’s too much”, she says and walks off. Then the driver shouts, “40 rupees”. “Nope”, says she as she moves on. The driver comes down to 30 rupees and the girl says, “ok” and gets into the taxi or auto. In those days, foreigners would only visit expensive restaurants for their breakfast or lunch, but nowadays even a wayside tea shop is ok for them. But they are the ones who really enjoy a visit to Ooty.

The beer summit and the Obama magic

It may be just a slip of the tongue

Or an off the cuff remark,

A momentary ego clash

Or an untimely eruption of ethnic rivalry

Despite being armed to the hilt

With proverbial advices such as

Mind your words, look before you leap,

Forget and forgive and so on.

You fail to use these arms

And let things slip out of your hands.

Everything will fizzle out soon

If you are ordinary folks

But not so when one of you is a Harvard scholar

And the other a police sergeant.

It spreads like wild fire

Soon the television crew is at your gates

The whole world watches you

And if the color of your skin differs

Then it assumes racial tone

Even Obama’s casual utterance takes a new turn

 

The ego clash between Mr. Gates and the police officer

Would’ve snowballed into a major crisis

Hadn’t Mr. Obama interfered.

But Obama being Obama

What followed was not a serious official talk

A friendly chat. A beer summit.

And to quote a reporter, “they came, they met,

They drank, they did not apologize

They just agreed to disagree”

The beer summit and the Obama magic

Worked well and we folks can sing,

“All is well that ends well”.