Monday, 27 April 2015

The Politics of Friendship

There is a question or should I perhaps call it a dilemma, about friendship. And it’s not about two genders, but three.

The problem of what ‘type’ of friends we should and should not cultivate has been a question that is perhaps addressed in every household at one time or another in childhood, teen years and sometimes even adulthood.

Usually these questions revolve around bad influences and those few from shady backgrounds or different cultures. But whether one can have friends from the other two genders is rarely discussed. It is simply understood that persons of those category are out of bounds. That discussion is supposedly purely adult talk and taboo for the same people whose choices are being determined. Funny country!

Personally experiencing ridicule in school because of casual conversations with girls, I learned that along with society in general, even the education system is in denial that there is actually a problem of communication between genders. This gap is sometimes also encouraged through ridicule, excommunication from the peer group and marginalization from the opposite gender.

Image Courtesy: Google Images/

These deliberate gender-distancing tactics have, I have realized, long lasting effects on the psyche. Talking just about males and females: Men may grow up to be indifferent, hostile and inconsiderate towards women. Women may grow up to be paranoid, disgusted and perhaps even leery of men.

If not given a chance to understand the dynamics of different genders by mingling, problems are likely to develop in a society that has the misfortune to be the one where such individuals grow up. The blinders put on them as kids are likely to stay on forever, the conditioning of a lifetime giving an extremely skewed vision and a closed mindset.

Perhaps this is what has happened to the people of the third gender. Avoided, shunned and “protected” from them, the rest of society treats them as sub-humans. Marginalized by the society that they should have been accepted into as normally as any other person, the people of the third gender have had to fight a long and arduous battle for the most fundamental rights. And even though the Indian government has accepted them as part of society, there is possibly a long road ahead of them trying to be part of society in this country.

This is the politics of the society we have been born into. Something as fundamental as friendship can also be the reason for discord. It makes one realize the potential for division within us.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Bombay Chronicles #3 - Beautiful Bombay

Bombay is a very old city and by that merit, has some very old building, albeit in very good shape. It is not only the old ones though that are picturesque, modern buildings hold their own in competition. They just lack one thing, the weight of history that defines their older counterparts.

This is the third and final part of the Bombay Chronicles series. You can read the first and second parts here.

The BSE is a building I had wanted to see up close from a long time. The Bombay Stock Exchange, the centre of trade and commerce that essentially makes the city the financial capital of the country is an imposing structure and one can only describe the feeling of staring up at it as one of awe. The scroll of companies listed there and the giant screen outside the building coupled with high fences, roadblocks and what seems like a whole battalion of security personnel truly presents a visage that goes with something as important as the protection of a nation’s finance. And yeah, I got told off for trying to put national security at risk by almost clicking a picture of the building.

The Haji Ali Dargah, the mosque that is literally in the sea, is another place that I wanted to visit, thanks to Bollywood. The mosque, although thronging with tourists and the faithful is a place of immense calm if one were to look for it. Sitting on the edge of the border wall, staring into the water, one can feeling peace wash over with the salty breeze and crashing waves.

A happenstance led us to Horniman circle, an area next to Dalal Street which looks like Connaught Place in Delhi. We, as media students, decided to visit Bombay Samachar, India’s oldest newspaper. It was amazing to see that the old building was exactly how it would have been when it was first constructed. More files than computers, more fans than air conditioners and senior journalists looking up over the edge of their glasses at this bunch of prospective media persons. There were three different types of printing machines. And the best thing: They don’t use key cards to log entry and exit, they use the quaint punching system to remind them of the values that were integrated with the paper.

Marine Drive, where the wave of humanity meets the waves of the ocean at the edge of land (or rather the island). Watching the place in movies does no justice to the place… at all. Need a place to unwind at the end of a hard day but don’t want to do so at the bottom of a bottle, this is the place to be. The sunset, the water, the rocks, the concrete, the crows and the crabs present such a vivid mix of sensory perceptions that one can absolutely be lost in the fine line between nature and civilization. The pure energy thrown off by the city behind and the water in front, the clash of opposite forces and the feeling of being equidistant from both, in no man’s land so to speak is an experience unlike any other. It is truly the refuge of the tired mind weary heart.

The Gateway of India, one of the two most prominent ‘Gates’ in the nation is beautiful after sunset. Obviously, selfie-crazy people need to go before that but the beauty of the yellow stone, the lighting and the hilarious signboards together with the history of the place gives a sombre reminder of days before Independence. And of course, the Taj hotel just next to it adds up to the whole experience of patriotism as symbol of steadfast reserve of the Indian people and their ability to bounce back from anything at all.

The Gateway of India.

This was all the beauty I managed to cram into my short stay in Mumbai and the rest… perhaps another time.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Bombay Chronicles #2 - Rising Tide

Bombay is the city by the sea and the people living therein are like the drops in that sea that fills up this great metropolitan, rendering it virtually impossible to breathe or see anything once inside.

This is the second part of the Bombay Chronicles series. You can read the first part here.

Image Courtesy: Google Images.

As Poseidon threatens to engulf the island and reclaim what is his, the wave of humanity pushes back in defiance, gathering more of its own into the city and inadvertently helping the Lord of the Seas in his diabolical agenda. Unlike Atlantis, which he sunk with one swipe of his trident, Poseidon seems to be biding his time for Bombay to give up its soul willingly, albeit unwittingly.

Bombay, like other cities in Japan, Europe and Scandinavia, is an island; an island that is slowly but steadily filling up with a lot more people and infrastructure than its natural capacity. Factors like the Indian population explosion and an extended rate of migration to this financial capital have overpopulated this city.

The crowd on Chowpatty beach on a Sunday.

Rising water levels around the world due to global warming and deteriorating weather conditions are posing an increasing threat to this city’s contemporaries like Tokyo and Venice. In fact, in extreme weather conditions, the sea has been known to lay a invasive hand upon Bombay’s streets as well. How long before it decides to place the city under siege?

I am no meteorologist or geologist or statistician but one can always wonder what would happen if conditions were to get worse. It is not like nobody is aware of the problem but can it be that people would rather live in denial of a problem rather than think about its ramifications? And to think that I got this theory of denial from Dan Brown’s book ‘Inferno’ which coincidently I bought in… Bombay.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Bombay Chronicles #1 – Taking on Trains, Taxis & Traffic with Tequila

At first sight, the city appears to be nothing but a mass of humanity running in various directions with myriad purposes and at varying speeds. There is a sort of slow motion scene where everything slows down when you notice something beautiful and the next moment you are pushed back into reality and into the same throng of people you noticed as you stepped foot into economic powerhouse of an island.

The people, the lights, the noise, the smell… it all feels unrealistic and in a vague sort of way, a bit like what it would be like living inside the world of ‘The Matrix’. But here, people are controlled traffic lights, trains signals and numbers that go up and down at the Bombay Stock Exchange.
In Bombay for a week, probably half of my trip was spent travelling, thanks to the vast size of the city and the distance between places. Here is how the three T’s convinced me that the only way I’m ever going to Bombay again is as a tourist and nothing more.


Image Courtesy: Google Images.

The sheer number of people at any local train station startled the wits out of me and I’ve hung on to the side of a public transport bus many a times in Ahmedabad, where buses are tilted by the sheer weight of people hanging out the door. So you can imagine when I say I’m not easily overwhelmed by crowds. Of course I’d heard stories of Bombay’s population and its load of transportation but living it was more than I bargained for when I said ‘Aaj kuch toofaani karte hai’.

Added to the general discomfort of having to smell other people’s armpits and a whole collection of perfumes, the menace of having to deal with eunuchs is an ever present threat while on a train in the city. Of course, then there is the fear of getting thrown off the train or finding that your wallet has been picked off while you were trying to hang on for dear life while simultaneously avoid throwing up on people who will probably actually throw you off the train for doing that.

But, the trains do get you where you where you need to go. The problem is not the destination, but the journey.


Image Courtesy: Google Images.

I don’t mean to generalize here but taxi drivers are everywhere have the tendency of doubling up as tourist guides and showing outsiders the sights of the city even if it takes them out of the most direct way to your destination. The difference is that in other places you might not have to pay as much as say… the railway ticket from Gujarat to Goa to go from Bandra to Andheri.

While I was there, it was imperative that there was a functioning GPS in at least one phone to make sure that we reached the destination without having to write out a cheque instead of searching for loose change to pay the driver.

The good thing however is that taxi drivers actually follow the rules and don’t seat more than four people in the vehicle but that’s probably because the traffic police take their jobs very seriously there. And yes, taxi drivers will not always turn down the meter when you tell them your destination. They will first think about it and then they can and probably will refuse to take you there after much deliberation, leaving you stranded with on the road with the knowledge that three other taxis already passed you while the driver was making up his mind.


Image Courtesy: Google Images.

For those of you who live in a city not as big as Bombay, you have to see the traffic to believe what I’ve experienced. I’ve seen traffic jams as long as half a kilometre or more but the situation in this city is altogether on another level. Lack of sleep and excitement at wanting to explore the city meant that I slept more hours in a taxi than I did in a bed in the span of one week. Unbelievable? Believe it!

And this is just the situation on normal days. Weekends and matches at the Wankhede stadium take this madness to extremity. God help you if you are loathe to walk, because there is absolutely no point travelling by any sort of automobile when Bombay gears up for the weekend. I’m sure that an aerial photograph of any intersection or Chowpatty beach on a weekend will show up as an ants nest, it’s that bad.

And yeah, good luck getting anywhere on time. Not going to happen.

But unlike Gujarat, where everything needs to be done with a straight head; in Bombay, tequila is happy to help. Yeah, that said, ‘Don’t drink and drive’.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

NASA looking for Jadoo on Mars

[US astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Korneinko have blasted off in a Soyuz spacecraft to spend a full year at the International Space Station. They are attempting to create a record of the amount of time spent at this guinea lab to see what happens to these two lab rats after 12 months in zero-gravity, drinking recycled piss, hurling around the planet (wheee) and no sex… at all; a vacation that Valery Polyakov has scoffed at after spending 437 days in an older version of above mentioned space lab, in 1994.

Image Courtesy: Google Images/NASA.

Disgruntled astronauts who were passed over for this glorious mission, including Tom Hanks, who apparently didn’t learn anything from his Apollo 13 near-death experience, have alleged that this mission is a front to actually send humans to Mars from where a signal has been received in a single monosyllable repetition sequence that goes Om- Om- Om- Om- Om in different pitches. Tom Hanks is so getting fired for this.

Rakesh Roshan, Indian film director and the father of a Greek Demigod, seems to have strong views on the subject. Bruce Willis, who became head of NASA after blowing up that asteroid aiming for Earth and having a habit of generally Dying Hard for over a decade is also stoked.

Russia and the United States, the two nations whose astronauts are on this mission have vehemently denied these accusations of a world-wide conspiracy, calling them wild and misleading theories to create panic and bring down the credibility of their governments. They further denied building space weapons, continuing research on Skynet, the existence of Area 51 and that Will Smith had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour for bringing down a space plane in Independence Day.

Note: ISRO made the bolts for the garbage chute on this vehicle.]

[This is my article for the Faking News website. You can and probably should read it here: NASA’s ‘Year in Space’ is a conspiracy to find Jadoo]

Note: This post has been written for Faking news. Did you notice the ‘Faking’ before the word news? That’s because this is a parody of mainstream news and is supposed to be taken in jest and humour.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

The General who beat a Retreat

For those of you totally oblivious to what is happening in the world around you, allow me to tell you how a former General of the Indian Armed Forces and present Union Minister finally completed his formal induction into the frat house that is Indian politics.

I meant only 10%, you imbecile civilian!
Image Courtesy: Google Images.

He managed to piss off every journalist in the country because of a slight and misinterpretation by one of them. And then, like a very conscious leader of international importance, tried to explain his way out with an excuse even North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un wouldn’t believe and Kim believed snake wine would help him have better sex, so that’s saying something.

The minister called the Indian media ‘presstitutes’ and this term went viral over twitter and very other social media site in no time. It is true, the man did an absolutely wonderful job of handling the evacuation of Indians as well as foreign citizens from war-torn Yemen, even personally going there to oversee operations and the nation takes pride in this achievement, I do too. But then some media houses known for ridiculousness went and did what they do best. And the General did something he was probably taught not to do… ever; he lost his head.

He lashed out at the entire Fourth Estate for plotting against him, hand in hand with the arms lobby because in his words, “They don’t forget.” Although that’s a cool quote and sounds like, “A Lannister always pays his debts,” it seems like the minister has been watching too much HBO for his own good.

The point here is that even if he was misunderstood and that he meant to point towards only a section of the media, he (a four-star General and a Union Minister) should have know that it would cause outrage among those who follow him and hold him in high esteem. Of course, one would say, he knew what he was saying. In that case, didn’t he realize the repercussions of his actions?

A person in his position needs to know what to say and what not to say and tweet or post because as an opinion leader in the nation and abroad, his words can have implications far and wide. His words may even lead to backlash and come back to him as they did in this case. It is the classic case of almost defeating the enemy, then chasing after them only to find the main army marching in to finish the job. He went too far, a strategic failure he should have been aware of.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

The Monk who almost wanted a Ferrari

Tales of organized religions running after money and trying to spread their faith all around either by force or through bribes are mire in the history of not only this nation, but the world. But these are just tales and conspiracies which may or may not be rooted in fact. What happens however, when such stories of a real incident come to light?

I know of one such incident and although I refuse to admit if this is fiction or fact, it makes it very clear that the voices reciting the vow of poverty are often lost in the need for materialistic luxuries of life.

Featured here: The Bishop of Bling, Germany.
Image Courtesy: Google Images.

Once there was a priest who, after many years, finally made it as the preacher of a large congregation. The place of worship was large and the number of devotees was also higher in comparison to other places where he’d been assigned before. This city he went to had a reputation of not being able to tolerate nonsense from their preachers and this priest, in his pride, managed to get on the wrong side of the entire council. It was just like the previous priest; he was transferred because of his arrogance.

This priest managed to run things his way for a while but ultimately the patience of the people ran out because he never stopped making them regret the fact that they didn’t contribute enough money to God and by that, he meant he wasn’t happy with the amount of money that went into his upkeep after paying for the maintenance of the house of God. He kept repeating the dire situation of the accounts, all under the statue of his maker while the congregation tried its best to keep him happy. But it was not to be and the priest’s senior had to have him transferred for his own well-being.

This priest was sent to a village whose faithful consisted of just a handful of people. He was appalled! How could he be sent to this place after heading a temple of a big city? It was outrageous. He probably thought that these villagers deserved a new priest without any experience while he deserved to be moving up in the hierarchy and heading another big place of worship. How dare the management leave him to rot in some godforsaken village?

And so, once again, senior had to transfer him and this time, even though he got a small town, which was technically a promotion from the village, the priest was sullen at this transfer too. Now this town had recently been upgraded, divided into two parts and another temple was built to accommodate all the faithful. This priest got the new temple and its people but he had to commute to this new temple everyday from his residence, which was still at the old place of worship. It takes time to shift quarters and it hadn’t happened yet. A minor inconvenience no doubt, to travel within the same city and pry for the people. But the priest now demanded separate living quarters for himself and a servant for his needs at the new place. The management decided this was too costly an affair and refused this demand.

Within a year, the priest demanded a transfer.

Looking at his track record, it does seem plausible that this person would have fared better as an IAS officer than he did as a priest.

It only goes to show how the people who serve God are also not totally immune to the pleasures of life and it’s not like they don’t deserve them but there are those who work to sincerely spread love and foster goodwill among people according to what their scriptures say. These sincere people try to do good in often horrible conditions, among hostiles, in dangerous territory and under threat of prosecution and death on a regular basis. The priest in the story and those like him give everyone else a bad name and are often the reason why even the most religious of people tend to lose their faith.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Death by Blasphemy

I’m writing this post today because I think I know that barring natural causes or a horrific accident, I’ll probably be alive reading the response that you so considerately are going to write in the comments section. But it is not so for a lot of other bloggers and by ‘other’, I mean bloggers in Bangladesh who don’t know whether they’ll be alive to see their message reach their readers or not. They don’t know if they are safe even within the sanctity of their homes.

Image Courtesy: The Hindu.

Two bloggers are already dead in our neighbouring nation because they apparently wrote blasphemous stuff on their blogs. They were supposedly atheists who wrote critically of religion. I’m not sure of the content of their writing but the answer to anything is never violence. It’s not that things cannot be solved that way, but it is nobody’s right to inflict it on another.

Obviously, it is wrong to write hateful things about other religions and their leaders and so on and so forth but the punishment for that cannot be death. Causing mass agitation and public anger can be argued to have severe consequence but death for anything without the due process of law is something I believe no brand of religion would condone.

Freedom of Expression is a basic right that cannot be taken away from anyone and those radicals who seek to do so cannot claim to be doing it on religious grounds. These people need psychiatric treatment and a thorough explanation of how civilized society is supposed to function.

It is not that I’m supporting the bloggers without knowing what they wrote. It is easy for a writer to become a terrorist and even if an assumption is made that they wrote something that could and did hurt religious feelings, I think the due process of law in Bangladesh could have taken care of the matter. In any case, writing anything against anyone is no reason for violence and it certainly didn’t make these two bloggers legitimate targets.

Radical behaviour has become quite the norm, not only in one country but across the board. Fanaticism is rampant In India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, the entirety of Middle-East Asia, Northern Africa and Europe as well. Tolerance and co-habitation seem to be ideas of the past as different coloured flags are followed by the same weapons, murdering people with the same colour of blood.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Every day is 'Good Friday' in India

For those of you don’t know what Good Friday is, it is the day Jesus was hanged from a cross and killed. Just to make it clear, it isn’t literally a ‘Good’ Friday. The Vatican just thought it would be funny to confuse the rest of humanity, who, to this date, still very considerately text Christians ‘Happy Good Friday’. Well done Vatican, well done. I’m sure at least one Cardinal still tells this joke at the annual Papal dinner and the rest of them can’t stop chuckling.

However, the point is that Jesus died and the scriptures may say that he died for the sins of humanity and that it was foretold and that he had to pay the price to save mankind. This is what religion says. Now, if we just take it from the Roman and Jewish perspective, the man was stirring up trouble; Plain and simple. He was the whistle-blower who debunked old laws and gave the people something new to believe in. He spoke with an air of authority before those who weren’t used to people even looking straight at them. He defied almost all conventional rules and went even against the judicial system to protect adulteresses. He touched patients with leprosy and entered the house of a damned tax collector. That is why he had to die.

Shown here: Jesus whipping the crap out of money-changers in the temple of Jerusalem.
Image Courtesy: Google Images.

How many of you don’t know a person like this? How many of you haven’t seen stories of people in India trying to do good, punished for their deeds? Haven’t you seen whistle-blowers killed or jailed? Haven’t you seen honest officers transferred or killed? Haven’t you seen activists jailed or killed? Haven’t you seen leaders blown up for instigating revolutions?

Prophet – Sage – Leader – Activist – Son of God, whoever you are… if you go against those in power, you cannot live very long.

Jesus was a dissident of sorts. He strove to bring people around to the idea of thinking about what was right and not follow religious leaders blindly. It was the movie ‘Oh My God’, but playing out 2000 years back. Jesus spoke on law reform, commercialization of religion, better healthcare, and upper-class hypocrisy among other things. 

Son of God or not, the man Jesus was a revolutionary of his time and just like him, anyone who stands up to cry foul is shot down just like he was. The only difference is that Jesus was nailed to wood and today, revolutionaries and free thinkers are either buried in or burnt on wood.

Friday, 3 April 2015

When Castro invited Kom to Cuba

[The retired and gravely ill former dictator ruler of Cuba, Fidel Castro, has reportedly invited the much celebrated Indian Olympian boxer Mary Kom to move to Havana, accept Cuban citizenship and represent the nation as its first woman sportsperson in the sport. This has purportedly been the result of Namibia Flores, Cuba’s only woman boxer, leaving the nation to pursue career prospects in the United States.

Will you come?

Do you think so?

In March 2014, the Cuban Sports Minister was reported saying, “What are you talking about? Women’s boxing? Women cannot do boxing! Women can run and play tennis. Boxing is a man’s game. All this is just US propaganda.” They now seem to have changed their tune.

The Indian Boxing Association is outraged and up in arms against this request by a friendly nation. Vijender Singh, eminent sportsperson, Olympic Boxer and judge-of-a-bunch-of-illiterates-on-a-crappy-television-show says, “Cuba is country? Really? They want Mary Kom? I have in pen drive. They want boxer Mary Kom? This is wrong. Bhai aisa thodi chalta hai? How can they just say they want Mary Kom? We want Mary Kom. We want medal. No, no, no, this is not possible.”

Sarbananda Sonowal, Indian Union Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports (Independent charge) has expressed concern over the matter. Mary Kom is an icon for the little girls of the nation. And I believe that she is very patriotic even if she is from an Eastern state. I have contacted Mr. Bhagwat to convince her to join the organization too. After that, let’s see how she goes.”]

[This is my article for the Faking News website. You can and probably should read it here: Fidel Castro invites Indian boxer Mary Kom to represent Cuba]

Note: This post has been written for Faking news. Did you notice the ‘Faking’ before the word news? That’s because this is a parody of mainstream news and is supposed to be taken in jest and humour.

Images courtesy of: Google Images.