Tuesday, December 09, 2008

As the dust settles

All this has been said already. Plus, it's over 2000 words long. If you have something better to do, don't bother reading. I've split the story up under different headings. There's no real flow; you can skip an entire section without missing much.

Reactions to 26/11 in the US

Unless you've been swimming with penguins in Antarctica or have been tied up and blindfolded under the deck of a Somali ship, you probably are neck-deep in reports of the Mumbai attacks. My colleagues, whose knowledge about India spans Gandhi and curry, started asking me about Mumbai everyday. (One of them even doubted the accuracy of my information- "You said Bombay, CNN said Mumbai", he alleged.) The more curious ones with bitten nails and scratched scalps asked me how to pronounce Lashkar-e-Toiba, and went on to try pronouncing it when I coached them with the patience of a Feynman in an LKG classroom. Their best attempt- Lashkar rhymed with Nascar, e was too short to screw-up, and Toiba sounded like Toshiba with the sh silent. It was part amusing, part cute. I could spend all day listening to their renditions of Lashkar-e-Toiba. Still, I really appreciate their concern, and the discussions we've had on terrorism are a pleasant alternative to the debates on TV. They have a simple solution to the menace of terror- "Stop negotiatin', just kill 'em or bomb 'em or some-um."

Aside: A word on some-um: Most Americans don't say 'something'; they either stop at 'some', or follow 'some' with a gulp, like they're swallowing something that flew in when they said 'some'- the net result sounds like some-um. I was so taken up by this, that I’ve started saying it too when I talk to them.*


If there was one thing you wouldn't want to be during the entire Mumbai episode, it must be a politician. The media aimed its mics and the public aimed its Gangaajal at every politician who spoke up. While RR Patil chose the wrong forum to rattle off a DDLJ-style dialogue (the bade bade sheheron mein one), we had Shivraj Patil, the chairman of IPL**, who displayed admirable bravado while cocooned in a nest of commandoes ("They can't scare us"), Manmohan Singh who could've done better with a few hundred cups of coffee (and stop being a Deve Gowda with eyes open), Vilasrao Deshmukh who will never again invite his son's friend to accompany him, and Milind Deora who admitted he was ashamed of being a politican. There were other serious and, in an evil sense, hilarious blunders by our netas. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi lashed out at women wearing lipstick and powder for insulting politicians in western sabhyata, and Achuthanandan showed his contempt for canines when late Major Unnikrishnan's father drove him out complete with his mundu, soda glasses, and sniffer dogs. Poor Achu doesn't know that he went to Major’s house only after the dogs did. The other Patil, the one on Raisina Hill, stayed away from the media and quietly went to visit the victims. Advani, the new moderate in Indian politics condemned the attacks, promised not to make it a poll issue, and went campaigning the next day. As promised, he didn't bring up the Mumbai attacks. All he said was "Afzal Guru agar Anand Mohan hota ya Anand Singh hota to ab tak phaansi pe chadh chuka hota." It's like calling you a sick bastard after promising not to call you stupid.

There was something nostalgic about the resignations of Shivraj Patil, Deshmukh, and RR Patil. It took me back to early 2004, when Sonia Gandhi transported antaraatma from clunky Bollywood into mainstream political vocabulary. Some try to disguise it as 'inner voice' or 'aatma ki aawaaz', but don't be mistaken- it's all from the same reservoir of collective conscience Sonia inaugurated that famous day.

Sena Sena you said it to me

While Mumbai was under siege, two of its greatest self-proclaimed culture chowkidars were conspicuous by their absence. While Udhav Thackeray was probably in some non-descript village marketing his Shiv vada pav, Raj, chairman of the other IPL***, was possibly scouting for FMIs (Foreign Marathi Investors) to invest in Raj Kachorikar. Of course, the VP of MNS, between furtive mouthfuls of Congress's kanda poha, said that Mumbai was too crowded to catch the terrorists. Will somebody please inform him Qasab didn't huddle four Biharis around him and shoot between their legs? As one blogger said, no one expected Raj to pick up a gun and storm the Taj, but he could have helped with relief efforts outside- it would have even made sense as a political stunt.

Pick a dialogue

If you put all our politicians in separate rooms and ask them their favourite Hindi movie dialogue, 90% will say, “Chand khudgarz neta ke kaaran hamaari poori kaum badnaam hoti hai”. The public today is so disenchanted with the political fraternity that the very word politics, as opposed to a few corrupt practitioners of the art, is the rogue we have gagged, draped with a blanket, and beaten to pulp. This is unhealthy- politics is not dispensable, some politicians are, and the sooner our angry junta realizes this, the better. Also, I don’t know why Advani promised to not use terror as a poll issue (though, as I mentioned earlier, he broke it). If your party has to come to power, you have to not only show what you’re good at but also criticize what the opposition is bad at; even though you might have been equally bad at it in the past. The problem with BJP is not that it raised the issue of terror; the problem is that it just said “Say no to terror. Vote for BJP.” Even a rough draft of how it would tackle terror if voted in, would’ve helped immensely. Terror can be handled by a good government. If I am a voter, I will be extremely interested in knowing how a party plans to deal with terror, not just that it will deal with it. In any case, it must be an integral part of all political campaigns.

India’s Skewrty Forces

This is both the average North Indian’s pronunciation of Security Forces, and the nature of distribution of the said Forces. While Ismail, Qasab, and co. had to fight brave but ill-equipped and ill-numbered policemen, Mayawati was snoring under the vigil of the 350 policemen in charge of keeping mosquitoes and assailants away from her. While she might have an excuse being the CM of India’s most lawless state, what about Amar Singh? How many of you know he was upgraded to Z+ status in exchange for his support to the UPA government during the trust vote tamasha? The UPA traded NSG commandoes for votes; the worst case of corruption at the highest level. Read this article for more about the skew in our security forces.

India's 9/11

We love comparing. No sooner did debutant Zaheer Khan york a Kenyan tail-ender than comparisons with Wasim Akram begin. The moment trailers of Refugee were released, Abhishek Bachchan's eyes, smile, and jaw structure were pitted against Amitabh's. I'm sure the day Preity Zinta has a daughter, people will run behind her dimples with Vernier calipers. The Mumbai saga too had its share of match the followings. India's 9/11- somebody (I assume it's the media. Please correct me.) coined this, popularised it, and started drawing comparisons to the 9/11 attacks. People vehemently denied this link, and some reluctantly supported it, without realizing how utterly pointless the whole exercise was. Will Archimedes run out naked from his bathtub in heaven? Will Osama surrender in awe? Will the US finance the repairs to the Taj and Trident? Will Mohamed Atta be brought back to life and sentenced to death?

Tu Tu Main Main

While getting celebs to play panelist-panelist in primetime debates is a sure shot TRP pump, uninformed panelists can make real asses of themselves. A case in point- in a recent debate, Simi Garewal said, "Go to the Four Seasons and look down from the top floor at the slums around you. Do you know what flags you will see? Not the Congress', not the BJP's, not the Shiv Sena's. Pakistan! Pakistani flags fly high!" with the kind of certainty Heisenberg never had. She later apologised when she was informed that those were actually flags of Islam; but the damage was done. I fail to understand why it is so important to know celebrities' views on a topic like this- I mean why would you make Ratna Pathak Shah (Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na), Kunal Kohli (Fanaa, Hum Tum), Luke Kenny (Rob in Rock On), and Simi Garewal debate on national television, that too in the same show? The media was also very concerned when Shahrukh Khan did not give his opinion on the subject. When he finally decided to open up, NDTV and IBN were in raptures. His opinion (video), when it was finally aired, was the most realistic and appropriate coming from a public figure. He said he kept mum because he was scared that something he said might exacerbate an already tense and sensitive situation. Simple and elegant- his views were not essential during the turmoil, and he was sensitive enough to realize that. Hats off, SRK (Zyaada udna mat. I think you totally suck in Rab Ne...trailers).

Saare sabooton ko madde nazar rakhte hue ...

ye electorate Shiela Dikshit ko apna CM chunti hai. BJP really hoped the Mumbai attacks would dent Congress's prospects in the assembly elections, but not only did the latter retain Delhi, it also wrested Rajasthan from Raje. It was good to see the BJP graciously accepting defeat and choosing to introspect rather than to ransack the IIMS****. While the elections announced the arrival of the BSP on the big stage, an ex- saffronian had to eat humble rajma chawal. Uma Bharti vowed to quit active politics if the BJP retained MP, so it's now time to see if her vow was a vow or a bow-wow. The biggest surprise though, was Delhi. Sheila Dikshit has shielded her seat marvelously, amid the mayhem of raped tourists and adventurous remarks (especially considering her name almost scrambles to Shit Ka Shield).

Our political saviour

First, he uttered it in the US. It swept across the Atlantic, whispered over the Sahara, gained speed over the Persian Gulf, and finally hit Mumbai 3 days after Qasab and his comrades did. If it had reached a week earlier it would have been echoed back to where it came from, but the timing was perfect. Yes, Indians too want change now. And we're not talking about policies this time; we're talking people. We were tolerant till as recently as November 24th when Mulayam Singh distributed kadak sau rupay notes to everybody listening to his campaign speech. But now, we're going the BCCI way- get the young blood in. Though Krantiveer-II would have Nana Patekar smashing nails (video) and mixing old and young blood to prove us wrong, it's unlikely the demand for younger netas is going to die down soon. We have a few star kids in politics- Milind Deora, Navin Jindal, Sachin Pilot, Supriya Sule, Priyanka Gandhi, and of course, Rahul Gandhi. Of all these, Rahul seems to be taking the longest strides and he's doing it the hard way. From what I read and see on NDTV, I think he has his heart in the right place, and is sending out the right signals to the youth. But no; the media will not let him develop into a leader. They will coin him India's poitical saviour and raise the bar before he even stands on his feet. The article, as you might have seen, just asks people who should be in power. The headline is a really cheap trick -with or without the question mark- and puts undue pressure on a promising novice, much like (as I said earlier about comparisons) Ambati Rayudu was hailed the next Sachin even before he played his first Ranji match.

Beating history projects

I know, I know; this post is longer than ICSE History projects and I don't even have erotic paintings and sculptures for relief. There's so much more I want to say, but I realize all good things must come to an end, and all bad things must be brought to one, depending on whether you're nodding your head in agreement or jerking it in inertia after reading this. Most of what I want to say is already being said- stuff about diplomacy with Pakistan, bombing terrorist camps, going to war, etc.; so I have very little incentive to write. For now, please keep the comments flowing :)

*A note to my friends in India- if you ever hear me swallow a syllable, lacerate my tongue when you meet me (or say main tumhaari zabaan kheench doonga in Sarfarosh style. See video near 3:20), or send me spam mail if you don't.

**Ineffective Politicians’ League

***Intimidating Politicians’ League

****Infinite Inventory for Mud Slingers