Thursday, August 16, 2007

‘Cos we’re free … free falling

My last piece got me into a spot of trouble. On my writing table the next morning, the mother-in-law had placed a large meat cleaver with a post-it attached to it saying ‘WARNING’. I’m slowly realizing how hazardous and treacherous writing a column for a newspaper can be. So, this one comes with a disclaimer. “Any resemblance to political parties or persons living or dead is purely coincidental”.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve got freedom coming out of my every orifice. Every news channel, every newspaper, every FM station, just hasn’t stopped singing the same tiresome ‘aye mere vatan ke logon’ type drone and it has become almost as unbearable as the other sordid freedom struggle that we had to put up with barely 2 weeks ago, the one now better known as the ‘free Dutt’ saga.

First let me clear the air (‘if only it were that simple’, the environmentalists in Bangalore would say).

It’s not that I’m not patriotic. I too went bare-chested, waved my shirt in the air and danced in the aisles when we ended that 22 year drought and ‘pommie’led them in their own backyard. It’s another thing that I didn’t agree with the way we played the 4th day of that cricket match and I told someone that my next article would titled ‘the day the Wall lost his balls’. But let’s not digress.

I am as proud as our national bird, to be Indian. It’s just that I’m not hypocritical.

If MF (it’s Maqbool Fida, lest idle minds start wandering) Hussain saw his ‘Mother India’ as a curvy woman in the buff, then, so be it. Who gave the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti the right to decide that religious and patriotic sentiments were offended? Why hasn’t this 92 year old icon, who, arguably, has single-handedly put India on the world canvas, been able to return back home, even after a year and a half of self imposed exile and is still subjected to death threats. Freedom of expression indeed!

And if Narayan Murthy decided to play an instrumental version of the national anthem rather than let his foreign guests be subjected to his cacophonous Infoscians on campus, then again, so be it. On what grounds were sticks and stones (and whatever else they use to destroy life and property) cast by that Kannada culture vulture (read Garuda) Ambareesh or the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike.

Yes, the very Vandal Commission / immoral police / shiv insainiks etc. who have decided that people should be home and in bed by 11.30, that rock shows, valentines day, discotheques, miss world competitions, and MNCs in general should be banned on ‘moral grounds’ and ‘pub culture was foreign to India’.

Ironically, the Raja of Bihar, is the best quote I’ve heard on the topic

“yeh moral ground kya hota hai main nahin jaanta. Haan playground hum ne suna hai. Duniya ka sab unmoral aadmi moral ground ka baat karta hai”

I can go on and on with stories from some of our prize freedumb fighters.

What happened to those 20 hooligans from the Mental Institution of Marredpali (aka Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen) who hurled everything from bouquets (literally) to brickbats (figuratively) at Taslima Nasrin at her book reading in Hyderabad recently? Apparently they were taken into custody and later given their ‘freedom’.

In yet another incident from the land of ‘Paradise’, a fatwa was issued by Muslim clerics because a spunky tennis star ‘didn’t cover up enough’ and that she ‘set a bad precedent’. Why doesn’t one look at the example she’s set for millions of Indian sportswomen. Yes, she’s the very one who put the word ‘women’ back in sportswomen and of course, ‘the rack’ in racket.

If Mandira Baby (sorry, Bedi) wished to flaunt a Satya Paul with a tri-colour on it then, (to use a very profound statement we used as kids) ‘who’s father, what goes?’. It’s not that it was a thong or anything (though, I shall spend the next 2 minutes dwelling on that happy thought).

If Shilpa-goody-two-shoes-Shetty decided to make out with pretty-boy-Gere in public, then again, so be it. What she does with her ‘business partners’ is entirely her business.

And when a Tamil actress stated the absolute obvious on ‘virginity’, and endorsed safe sex, tomatoes, eggs and the entire chappal shop was hurled at her because she ‘hurt Tamil sentiment’. Wake up and smell the Khushboo, people.

It’s about time people realized that ‘riot’ is not central to patriotism.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


Bangalore Mirror, Tues 7th Aug 2007

I’m surrounded by people who religiously believe that “There is nothing money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard”

How shopper’s stops and malls have become the forum for one’s recreational lifestyle, just goes to show how central they’ve become to one’s existence.

How can anyone consider aimlessly wafting through rows of lingerie or some such, as entertainment? One would argue that I did just that, strolling through the ‘glasshouses’ in Amsterdam, but in my defense, the lingerie back then, at least had people in it!

Why would anyone spend over an hour in weekend Bangalore traffic, find parking 20,000 leagues under the mall only to be jostled around, pinched, nudged and letched at? Even the escalators aren’t considered safe for kids like me anymore, so it certainly can’t be for the joyride.

One has to only go to one of these places of Sunday obligation to know what I’m talking about. Mama bear, Papa bear, Grandma bear, Baby bear (in pram) with Goldilocks in tow, all in their finest finery. They will get there really early, spend their entire day running through the great wide open fields of gold, taking in the invigorating air-conditioned air, listening to the promotional birds twittering (about why AMD is the best multitasking processor), spreading out their picnic basket and enjoying a lazy lunch at the food court, before going home only to be back the next week.

But what’s most interesting is the wonderfully therapeutic properties of shopping.

The undisputed cure for all depression, joblessness, obesity, failed love lives and menopause. Name the ailment or the situation ... I am told, the greater the indulgence, the faster the road to recovery. And mind you, this is irrespective of whether there is need to buy or not.

A friend of mine (let’s call her Little Ms. Marcos to protect her identity, because she’s one of Bangalore’s pretty, known, socialite faces) buys shoes as a hobby. Even if she were to wear a new pair every week she would be taken care of for the next 5 years. Her defence lawyer would say ‘whats wrong with that? People collect everything from stamps to coins to matchboxes to AK56s.’ But really, there has to be a law against this, because 200 odd stilettos could most certainly be classified as weapons of mass destruction.

Then there’s my wife (lets call her Jeans, to protect her identity and my backside) who insists on buying her denims always a size smaller. It’s called an aspirational size (again, I am told). All it aspires to be really, is neatLee stacked away in it’s original packaging waiting for famine and drought to strike the land.

There are also others like that canteen manager (let’s call him Ashok Malhotra. There’s no need to protect his identity. He’s busted good and proper anyways) who buy 50 cars (and we’re not talking functional, mode-of-transport type vehicles here, we are talking serious symbols of status like Mercs and Prados and Land Cruisers here). What does he do with the other 49 when he goes out for a drive? Puts them on a leash and takes them in tow??

Then I know of another (let’s call him John. In Lingarajpuram, if one throws a stone up in the air it will land either in a beer bottle or on a John, so I’m safe) who changes his mobile phone as often as Little Ms Marcos changes shoes. For a contraption that helps one to make calls and send messages, life-altering upgrades every month seem rather ridiculous don’t you think??

But the queen of it all just has to be my mother in law. If someone had to tell me that I won a crore in a lottery I really wouldn’t have a clue what to do with it.

But let’s put her in a similar situation. Before the money even reached her, she would’ve decimated it all. It’s a rare gift, again, I am told. Every other big spender has pet projects. Like shoes or gizmos or jeans or cars. But here, it hardly matters. Initially I thought she had a soft cushion for furniture. I always feel like a bull, when I am in their china shop, because it’s more museum, less house. What is remarkable though is there are no favorite projects. The minute she walks in a joint, every spend gets equal and adequate attention. Whether it be jewelry or saris or crockery or just something as mundane as shopping for groceries, more IS the new lesson.

So, to all of you that give gyan that ‘money can’t buy love and happiness’ tell that to that Japanese man Ta-Bo who has spent 16,000 USD over the last decade on dolls. The same dolls he watches TV with, bathes, powders them and then takes lovingly to bed.

C - scapes ... underwater colours