Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Chaiwallahs are collateral damage in a Chaiwallah’s war

As soon as PM Narendra Modi announced that currency notes in the denomination of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 would be demonetised immediately, people ran to the nearest ATMs and began withdrawing Rs 100 denomination notes. And then… the ATMs ran out of money.

Today, as I was going about gauging the mood around town, I stopped for tea at my usual kitli. After the usual pleasantries with my usual chaiwallah, I took my cup of tea and sat down with my phone to check for updates on the US election. Donald Trump had won. OK, no comments.

But then I saw something closer to home. Something I am going to call the ‘short-term collateral damage of demonetisation of notes’.

Photo Credit: Joel George

The chaiwallah was arguing with his stockist. Since this was a small kitli at the corner of residential block, there wasn’t much traffic here and there are lesser customers. Hence, cigarette sales also aren’t that great. So the stockist gave the chaiwallah two boxes of cigarettes and chaiwallah handed over an Rs 500 denomination note to pay for it.

However, the stockist refused to take it, saying that he would not accept anything except Rs 100 notes. Now, the chaiwallah only had Rs 500 notes since he got the news only this morning and by that time, all the ATMs in the area were already out of cash and customers were unwilling to exchange his notes for him.

After a lot of haggling, the stockist came up with a solution. He would give the chaiwallah the boxes on credit instead of either taking the Rs 500 note or not selling the cigarettes to him at all. The chaiwallah, out of options, agreed and put his Rs 500 note back into his pocket with a sigh.

He then turned to me and said, “What have we poor people done? Why should we have to suffer for all the black money these businessmen and politicians have accumulated? We hardly have enough money to run our business and our house.”

And thus, the chaiwallah remains the unwilling and helpless collateral damage in this nationwide war on black money initiated by one of his own.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Ahmedabad, you don’t deserve Diwali

Do you celebrate Diwali by bursting crackers? Do you do so on the street? Then this is just the post for you.

Dear entitled, illiterate, rich leech,

You are quite the explosives expert and you certainly have the means to purchase expensive firecrackers and burst them in front of your family, friends, neighbours and anyone else who would like to compete with you in your little phallus measuring contest.

And just because you can afford these things, you think you are entitled to do so wherever and whenever you wish without a care for those who are too evolved, too mature or just too tired from a hard day’s work to stoop down to your level of utter stupidity.

You are indiscriminate

You are the ones who live in big bungalows and high rises but prefer to burst your crackers out on the street because you either don’t want to spoil your squeaky clean colony or disturb your immediate neighbours because they will actually do something about your ridiculous behaviour. So, you decide to burst your crackers out on the street without a care for either pedestrians or drivers. You are a glutton for punishment.

You are callous

You are the ones with the big cars and thousands of rupees worth of crackers who dare not burst them in your colony and so you drive to the street, far from your house, and do so in the middle of the road, all the while shamelessly laughing at your own callousness and the discomfort of others. Your parents should be ashamed of what you have become.

You are dumb

You believe that since the road is public property, your daddy owns it. Surprise you idiot, he doesn’t. We all, and that includes the people you don’t care about, have paid to have these roads built and maintained and we have the right to safe passage without have to bother about getting set on fire or meeting with an accident just because you decided it was fun to throw crackers onto the road. You need more education.

You are like irritating insects

Just like the drone of a fly or the bite of a mosquito, you are the sound that irritates this city. Just because you have the money to buy a truckload of crackers does not mean you are entitled to burst them till one in the night. You violate the basic right of peace when you decide you haven’t had enough fun and continue burning all the excess money that you have in a spectacular display of fireworks. You need to see a counsellor.

You make the police brutal

You complain about the police chasing you away from the roadside and tea shops at night. You think that they are being too brutal and that if they did their job right, you wouldn’t have to suffer for it. But, what you don’t realize, you little dung beetle, is that the police would rather have you off the streets than have to clean up after your racing matches, your loud music, your vulgar behaviour and your drunken brawls. You are not fit to be left unattended on the roads of this city.

You are a disgrace to Gujarati society

Gujarati society claims to be one of the warmest in the country, one that welcomes other cultures with open arms and invites them to live peacefully within it. You however, are the boil on the city that is the face of Gujarati culture. You fill Ahmedabad with pus and disfigure it with your hideous ideas of selfishness, uncaring attitude, and blatant disregard for your fellow human beings. It is because of you that the whole country believes that the people of this city just want to make money and show it off without displaying any signs of respect for education, humanity, communal harmony, equality or intellectualism.

You spoil the image of the entirety of the city’s youth. You deserve nothing.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Atithi Devo Bhava? Indian Intolerance is at 100% & Rising…

India has always denied claims of being racist and Indians absolutely hate the guts of those who dare to call us racist. The one argument – that we are a multi-cultural nation – is the defence used to thwart any racism related allegation upon our spotless robe tolerance and brotherhood.

A Tanzanian student was stripped and made to parade around the roads of Bengaluru, the place we proudly call the ‘Silicon Valley’ of India, because a Sudanese man ran over an Indian woman at that spot. She was harassed, beaten; her car set on fire and received no help from the police – all because she was from the same continent as the person who committed a crime.

Political leaders then even had the ever-present audacity to claim this was not a racist attack when African embassies came out in outrage of the horrific incident. Although Sushma Swaraj did condemn the incident, the damage is done and there is no guarantee that it will not happen again. This is not even an isolated incident. Media reports suggest that hate crimes are taking place all over the country.

What is even more appalling and shameful is that the 'Invest Karnataka 2016-Global Investors Meet’ took place in the same city just three days later where N R Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys, made a statement at that forum which needs mention here because he said, “My request to the state chief minister (Siddaramaiah) and industries minister (R V Deshpande) is to help us make Bengaluru more liveable for all, especially youngsters, by improving its infrastructure and quality of life.”

While the world is moving forward, leaving behind discriminations of caste, creed and colour; our country seems to be regressing into the dark ages of witch hunts, lynching, racial profiling and mob justice. And if this has happened in one of the major cities of the nation, it is shuddering to think of what happens in other areas.

In the post, The Wrong Colour of Skin – I wrote of how hypocritical we Indians are of our skin colour, about how we blame foreigners for racism and how our brand of racism is much, much worse.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Stuck in Smoke: The Fear of Police Brutality

As a journalist, coming home late is so normal that no time is late anymore per se but by normal standards, yes it was. And by late, I mean almost midnight.

This was a good day and since I did come back fast, I hadn’t had anything to eat. So I went to get a vada pav, which in case you’re wondering is a fried potato patty stuffed inside a bun and heated on a pan, sometimes with cheese.

The Incident

I just wanted to get the vada pav and get back home but no, events have to conspire on the one day I get home fast and that’s what happened here.

I got to the shop, ordered my cheese vada pav and then started reading the menu because there really isn’t much you can do while you wait. By the time I read half of it, my order was done and as I reached over the counter to take the parcel, I heard the shutters come down. Turning around, I saw one of the workers signalling all of us customers to be quiet and loudly whisper – POLICE.

I saw the time and sure enough, it was 12:00 am. The police had obviously come to shut down everything and we had been unlucky to be inside the place at that time.

It was then that it began. One of the dozen or so customers asked if the police would beat us if they found us. I thought he must be joking but turning around I saw that he and his friends were earnestly discussing this possibility which amused and worried me at the same time. Then the employees shut the lights off and the murmurs grew louder.

It amused me because I believe that the police could not beat us up for being there but I was apprehensive because I didn’t know for sure what the police would do. ‘Could’ and ‘would’ – the difference between knowing how things ideally work and not knowing how things will actually take place.

Image Courtesy:

After ten minutes or so of this conversation, an employee got an all-clear phone call from the other side of the shutter and he opened it just a little and let us out in pairs. It reminded me of a couple of movies where people are trying to cross international borders.

And I thought to myself,

“Are things really so bad?”

“Why is there fear even on a normal day in a busy part of the city?”

“Are these people right in mistrusting the police?”

“Do we need to fear the very people in charge of protecting us?”

“Is this paranoia or years of ingrained reality?”

And the most important thought,

“Is this the fear of one person creeping into all in a distressing environment or is this a mutual repressed feeling being triggered by a mere mention of atrocity?”

The Implications

The latter thought is scarier than the former and if true, needs to be addressed by the Ahmedabad City Police at the earliest because if the people don’t trust their protectors, who are they going to put their faith into?

The Next Step

I hope this post reaches the police department because I figure they should be concerned even if this is an isolated incident, which isn’t very likely.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

When Parents FAIL their Children all over again

Some parents I’ve noticed have this annoying habit. A habit they do not realize does more harm than good; a habit that discourages instead of bringing improvement; a habit that affects the psyche instead of the outlook; a habit that is akin to kicking someone who has fallen, laughing in their face, and then telling them how much you love them.

This is the habit of parents showing the whole world what spectacular and utter failures their children are by putting their shortfalls on full display before all to see and then inviting some more people to come and have a good laugh that’ll brighten up their day. This will then probably lead to an innocent either jumping from the terrace or hanging from the fan if they’re not strong enough to take the insult or smart enough to understand its purpose.

Let’s face it, there are such parents. And what’s worse, they are more in number than those parents who like to show the world that their children are the best in the whole wide world. Admittedly, that isn’t any good either, extremes rarely are, but at least it is talked about and ridiculed. However, the other end of the spectrum? It isn’t talked about in the way the adulation is spoken of. It is hardly ever criticized in society that is.

Image Courtesy:

There is rarely one who is strong enough to stand up to the parents and ask them to stop the rigmarole because at that moment, the child is the one who has let the parents down, who has tarnished the family name, who has failed in class, who has lost the competition, who has bunked a class, ho didn’t get into a good college, who didn’t get that gold medal, who didn’t care about what parents wanted. The child is to blame fair and square.

But one would think that parents, before using this innovative method of insulting their children before family and friends, would stop for a moment and think about what this would achieve.

Does ridicule raise confidence?

Does insult dull the injury of failure?

Does shame induce self-confidence?

Does derision ensure better performance?

Does humiliation beget better results?

Does indignity tend to inspire?

These are the questions that these parents need to ask themselves before going out into that party and shaming their children before others because you never know how someone will react to such shaming.

Your children might not understand that you do it out of love or desperation or some other sort of correctional method. In that moment, they just know pain all over again.

For some, it is too late. For others, it is not.

Please find a better way.

I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for quite some time now and a friend fortunately brought it up on Facebook recently. She saw this happening on an Indian soap opera and spoke out against it which led me to ultimately writing this piece. If you do think the problem is real, share this post with either the student who is suffering from this, or with the parent who thinks ridicule only makes things better.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Kim Jong-un's Six news ways to kill Traitors

Pyongyang: After having his Defence chief executed for treason because he dozed off in a high profile meeting titled ‘Dealing with Traitors’, eternal leader and Dictator par excellence Kim Jong-un sent a memo to the Pointless Killings Committee elaborating on six innovative ways to execute future sleeping beauties.

Sources deep inside the North Korean government indicate that Kim formulated this memo on the way to the classified nuclear missile silo where he was scheduled to oversee the execution of the chief scientist for making missiles with rounded heads. These pointers are meant to be taken as an express command of the benevolent leader and are to be inducted into the formal execution methods for all time (and beyond it).

Here is a copy of the memo that an anonymous source sent out to Faking News before mysteriously disappearing two days back. The document contains illustrative photographs to help the committee better grasp what the leader has in mind.

This dude!

Top Secret Document
Six New ways to annilate anihilatte destroy Traitors

#1 Running them over with Monster Trucks

Technique: Two monster trucks gifted to me, your leader, your God, your everything, by my best friend Putin will be used to run traitors over in the garden of my palace.

Priority status: Slaves bonded labourers.

#2 Tying them to Test Missiles

Technique: Any traitor who happens to be convicted on the day of a test launch of our missiles shall be tied naked to the missile and then launched. Sex appeal will get more attention from the world press.

Priority status: All military personnel, my family members.

#3 Air-dropping them over South Korea

Technique: Traitors attempting to cross over to the prosperous hated nation south of our borders shall be air dropped without parachutes in their territory.

Priority status: Civilians looking for a better life.

#4 Making them eat Radioactive Vegetables

Technique: Defectors working in sensitive national security fields shall be made to eat vegetables stored in uranium 238 contaminated storage.

Priority status:  Scientists, researchers, historians.

#5 Feeding them to the Sharks

Technique: Enemy citizens captured within and beyond the boundaries of our glorious nation shall be sent to sleep with the fishes. I have waited to use this line from a long, very long time.

Priority status: Spies, prisoners of war.

#6 Injecting them with the Ebola virus

Technique: Old people and the sick are of no use to the economy (thus becoming traitors) and must be disposed off. However, this must be done with compassion. To give them a natural death, they must be injected with the Ebola virus which our outsourcing partner Boko Haram has sent us.

Priority status: Old, sick, unemployed

Note: This is a Faking News report that I did some time back for MyFaking News. It is to be taken with the humour with which it was written.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Maybe George Orwell was Wrong about Journalism

There’s this quote going around that people credit to the author of works such as ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm’. It goes something like this…

Yeah, this quote.

Now, let me confess something right at the beginning.

I don’t really know if he said it or if it means something else altogether or if he meant it as a very complex metaphor to say something that I haven’t understood, but from what I gather from its literal meaning is that journalism is about letting people know about things that other don’t want them to know.

Now maybe he might not have used this quote to convey an absolute definition of journalism but seen and understood on its own, without a point of reference, it does seem like a very confined view of the field to me.

Saying that journalism is printing what others don’t want printed defines only one aspect of the many possibilities journalism holds. Information, knowledge, awareness, peacekeeping, gate keeping and even revolution are some of the various aspects of what one might call journalism per se.

Printing only what others don’t want printed seems to then be a very stunted view which implies that only the bad side of human nature is what journalism should strive to portray.

But journalism, as far as I understand it, stands as a mirror before society, showing it its true face, pretty or ugly, sane or insane, free or enslaved. But always what society really looks like, not only what-must-not-be-said.

Image Courtesy:

Some might today claim that the media has become biased, that it does show only what it wants to, that it all depends on the interest of those who control the media. Others claim that ‘breaking news’ is all what the media is about today. And still others believe that the amount of bad news being printed and broadcast is more than the good that is happening in society.

Does that mean this quote holds true?

Not necessarily. One has to look beyond the bad to search for the good. It does happen all around us and it is reported. Maybe it’s just that we are so attuned to the bad that we cannot find enough good to make it count.

As someone actually working in this industry, I know how hard journalists toil to search for a good story amongst the murders and suicides of everyday life. These stories then appear in print and are broadcast, but are we open enough to give the good news enough credit?

Are we ready to admit that George Orwell might, just might, be wrong?

Are we?

Saturday, 2 January 2016

The Year is New, but are Your Priorities?

Everyone’s excited about the new year that began on January 1st. Excited about a new beginning, a new resolution, a new twist to lie, a promise to oneself, new changes, new attitudes, new, new, new…

But is that really the case?

Do we really look forward to a new year or look back and enjoy the memories of milestones past. Are we just content to look back and not bother much about what lies ahead?

Image Courtesy:

If yes, then why rejoice for all the things accomplished at the end of this calendar year? Why not think of what didn’t happen this year? Why not think of what more could have been done this year? Why not reflect upon things that still require attention?

Some examples if you please.

Everyone in India went gaga over the fact that the country now has 1 billion telecom users. Yay! The country is now connected, right?

But what about the fact that India’s population is 1.2 billion, which leaves about 0.2 billion people still without a phone?

And what about the fact that there are 4 billion people in the world still not connected to the internet according to CNN Money? That’s four times the people who just use telecom services in India.

How about the 1.6 billion people in the world who have no sort of electricity at all if the World Bank is to be believed? How come these people don’t have a light in their homes this new year while we celebrate?

But the best and most apt comparison is that the United Nations claims there are 1 billion people in the world who defecate in the open even today. Well, how about that? What about them?

If you need to think, think of what is still left to do instead of lying back and basking in the glory of things already achieved. These are the things that need to be done this year.

Make a promise to help in whatever little way you can, for every small measure helps in making this world in the words of the immortal Michael Jackson:

A better place for you and for me and the entire human race…