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Sunday, August 28, 2011

The hope of the future...

I was in India Gate last night, at the Rally to celebrate Anna's "victory", and it was electrifying.
As I waded in through dancing youngsters, and fullfledged steel bands, and swishing tricolours, and candle-light wielding aunties, I was happy to see that almost the entire crowd was under 25. I seemed to be one of the few people with grey in my hair...
It is a good experience taking part in an agitation for improving and reforming things, and it is a character forming trait.
It was also astonishing to see youth crying out frienziedly slogans praising a 74 year old man,Anna Hazare, and not Rahul Gandhi or any of the other "youth" icons. It shows to what extent these people have become discredited in the eyes of the young.
Though I went to the Victory Rally, I do not believe the victory has been achieved.
I will believe in victory when I actually see the politicians and the IAS actually putting themselves under a Lokpal who can investigate their crimes and punish them for it. Between fobbing off an old man with a scrap of paper, and actually passing a tough law are light years of dodging and deception.
I believe Anna finally gave in, because he did not, in the end, have the guts to carry out his threat to fast unto death if a bill was not passed by the thirtieth of august.
I have seen the same Lok Sabha pass a Constitution Amendment bill for ensuring reservation in promotions in a flat two days, and I believe that the politicos got away, dodging the enormous pressure, by trotting out lame excuses.
I remember Ajit Jogi, as Congress spokesman, once telling us journalists in an off the record briefing that, the Seshan Experience had taught them to never empower and insulate a bureacrat to such an extent that he could  turn rogue, and endanger the very politicians who had elevated him.
Well, guess this House would never repeat that mistake. It would take us years to vote out these thieves and bring honest people who will bring a genuine Lok Pal bill, which could make a difference.
But tonight, I believe it would eventually happen, given the anger and enthusiasm of the youth.
PS:Even as other channels were doing live programming all day about the agitation, Doordarshan News was tonight discussing PM's forthcoming visit to Bangladesh. Guess apart from cretinous anchors, timid editors, and castrated senior officials, the experts who come in to their studios need to have their heads examined....

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The monkey, with his hand caught in the pot..

Just struggled through Amitav Ghosh's "River of Smoke".
Struggled because it is close to unreadable.
There is no central character, there are too many sub-plots, too many references to past events , and finally, too much of creole and pidgin English, and one really has to have Hobson Jobson's dictionary to make sense of some words...
And why has this happened?
Because Mr. Ghosh has swallowed a million dollar advance to cough out a trilogy, and he is forcing himself to do it, even when the urge to create is not there.
That's the problem, when the greed for dollars overwhelms the creative faculties of writers.
So, readers have coughed out five hundred bucks( it is already available at a discount over its cover price of 699 rupees, by the way) to read trash.
Unlike books of Amitav's like "A Hungry Tide" or "Calcutta Chromosome", which were tightly written around a single character, and fast paced, this book is a ramble through an entire era of history, mainly the time before the Opium Wars, and Amitav does not able to seem to make up his mind on which character to follow, and so ends up following all of them.
Wish he had tackled more modest subjects, in a less grandiose way.
But, then, he would not have justified that million dollar advance, would he??

Polarized by Anna, or poleaxed by Anna...??

Over the last few months, as Anna Hazare's movement has gathered momentum, i have come across a range of opinions from people around me about it in Delhi...so I thought i should put down, as a political scientist, the broad classification of opinion that I see around me:
The Conspiracy Theorists: This school of thought thinks that the whole thing is a conspiracy: some people think that the this is another Congress invention gone rogue, like Bhindranwale. Another variant thinks that the BJP/RSS is behind this Hazare.
The Pop Sociologist Theory : This says that the whole upsurge is confined to the urban "upper middle class", and that the media, being largely recruited from the urban middle class, is playing it up, to suit their class prejudices.
The "Wrong Handling" School of thought": This school thinks that whatever Anna says is bunkum, but since the government handled it "wrongly", it gave, inadvertently, a huge momentum to the Lokpal Wallahs..
The Messiah School: This school of thought is absolutely in agreement that he is the One, the Messiah who will end corruption, and redeem India.
So, which school do I belong to? Absolutely, the last one.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Raging, raging against the fading of the light....

The year: 1982.
The place: JB Nagar, Andheri, Bombay
The time: 10.30 in the night.
The day: Ganesh Chaturthi.
A big white sheet had been tied across the end of the street, and a projector was showing a movie from the Sixties.
The huge crowd sat on the street, watching the movie, spellbound.
Everyday, for ten days, they had been watching a movie on the street, as part of the Ganesh Utsav celebrations, with the Ganesh Pandal dominating the scene.
Around 9 everynight, people would finish their dinner, slip into their night pyjamas, and up would go  the sheet, and the magic would begin.
On that day, they watched as a rosy-hued man, with green eyes romanced the heroine. It was a fifteen year old film, but the magic was still strong.
These were the days before Movie channels on TV, before video tapes, before broadband downloads, and when the only film was either at the theatre, or in the evening on Sundays on Doordarshan.
The film was "Teesri Manzil", and the actor was Shammi Kapoor, and he was romancing Asha Parekh in the film.
When the song "Aaja aaja mein hoon pyar tera.." came on, the crowd went wild.
This is the song:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTgbq5vXJD8
In the audience was a 14-year old boy, dark and thin,  perched precariously on the wall of a building: it was the first time he had seen the song, but it struck a chord. The boy thought it was the most romantic thing to do: serenade the heroine in front of hundreds of people at a bar.
It was a bit worrying too: for one thing, the boy was not good at singing, and he was not as handsome as Shammi Kapoor...so, thought the boy, how do you exactly romance someone?
That boy was me, all of 14, and Shammi Kapoor became a part of childhood, and his songs a part of my life....
Today, he passed away, and I mourn: not just him, but, as I grow older, a part of my childhood too becoming history......